Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Citizens": The Other '-S' Word

The blog's front page is looking awfully text-heavy and image-dry, so here's a graphic cribbed from the site:

Poster "SM Foyle" apparently thinks "children of citizens" necessarily implies that natural-born citizenship requires parentage of TWO American citizens.

You don't need any caselaw or legal background or unabridged dictionaries to recognize the flaw in this reasoning. All you need is grammar.

"Children" is plural. So naturally, "children" will have American "citizens" as parents. The only way "children" could have a single citizen parent is if they're all siblings. Does "children of a citizen of the United States" even have the ring of sounding grammatically correct?

To wit, if a news article were to refer to, say "children of victims of rape," would any rational person interpret that to mean that BOTH parents were victims of rape, or just one? If a writer referred to "children of football players," would you think that referred to children whose fathers AND mothers were football players?

1 comment:

  1. I think the more substantial objection to the argument (which is the same objection to using Senate Resolution 511 to conclude two US Citizen parents are required) is that the argument form is a formal fallacy called denying the antecedent:

    If two citizen parents then natural born citizen
    Not two citizen parents
    Therefore: not natural born citizen

    it's like

    If Bill Gates owned Google then he would be rich
    Bill Gates doesn't own Google
    Therefore: Bill Gates is not rich