After Haigspeak -- linguistic vacuum in Washington
Who will take Alexander Haig's place as king of gobbledygook?
That question worries those who follow the linguistic acrobatics of the people in the capital.
The resignation of the man who said ''I don't want to give a value judgment other than to say I have no comment'' has left a void on the Washington verbal scene. Only former Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew has been able to afford language lovers the same delight - and his comments (He branded the press as ''nattering nabobs of negativism.'') were carefully tailored. Haig's gobbledygook just seemed to come naturally.
Edwin Newman, NBC correspondent and author of ''A Civil Tongue,'' says, ''Losing Haig was a terrible blow. Who can come close to him?''
Mr. Newman fondly remembers the Haig call for ''a concerted, collective, international effort'' with ''meaningful sanctionary teeth'' in dealing with international terrorism.
William Safire, who penned many of Mr. Agnew's carefully thought out zingers, must be disconsolate at Haig's departure. He has devoted many a New York Times Sunday magazine column to those ad-libbed ''Haigravations.''
In Mr. Safire's closing article on the Haig era, ''Exit Haigspeak,'' he laments: ''Al was just getting the hang of the language.''
Prof. John Rassias of Dartmouth will never forget the former secretary of state's ''we must definitize the President's catalyzation.''
Haig's verbal peccadilloes tickled even the British. Safire notes this parody from the Guardian in his book ''What's the Good Word?'': ''Haig, in congressional hearings before his confirmatory, paradoxed his auditioners by abnormalling his responds so that verbs were nouned, nouns verbed, and adjectives adverbised. He techniqued a new way to vocabulary his thoughts so as to informationally uncertain anybody listening about what he had actually implicationed. . . .''
Columnists are now eagerly searching for the new Haig.
William P. Clark has ''shown some early promise,'' says Newman, who reports that during his confirmation hearings the national security adviser was asked whether he could explain what was causing the split in the British Labour Party. The answer that delighted pouncers of word abuse everywhere: ''Not with any specificity.''
But, he added, Mr. Clark does not come out in public very much, ''so whether this is an aberration or whether he often speaks that way, there's no way to tell.''
Linguists agree that Haig's replacement as secretary of state, George P. Shultz, will not fill the void. His speech during the confirmation hearings, says one journalist, was disappointingly ''good old straight-arrow Midwestern.''
Dr. Lois DeBakey, professor of scientific communications at Baylor Medical School in Houston, finds Rep. James C. Wright Jr. (D) of Texas rising rapidly through the ranks. In reference to further investigations into the Kennedy assassinations, he said: ''I think there has to be a demonstration that this is not going to be a broad, freewheeling, headline-grabbing attempt to splurge and send investigators willy-nilly like the headless horseman in all directions, like a fishing expedition costing $6.5 million.''
Linguistic activists find sentences like these reassuring. They are not overly concerned about discovering a replacement for the master of bombast.