Promiscuous Failure

In the American Prospect, Harold Koh writes:

In no small part because of its promiscuous failure to ratify a convention with which it actually complies in most respects, the United States rarely gets enough credit for the large-scale moral and financial support that it actually gives to children’s rights around the world. [emphasis added]

I only point this out to be petty and small, as I have no real stake in how words are misused. But promiscuous? There’s really no sense of the word that makes sense in this particular context.

Barring a “creative” use of the word–which is not totally out of the question—I think the author means something along the lines of prominent, or conspicuous (which, when combined, yield something surprisingly close to promiscuous, [promi…]+[…spicuous]= promispicuous).

My point, aside from being small, is also to bring to light the fact that such misuse undermines the presumed validity of the article. I.e., as long as there are no incredibly conspicuous errors, you’re more likely to defer to the author’s opinions, or at least adapt you own viewpoints slightly. Phrases like “national prerogative” and “international adjudications” tend to make you think the author knows what he’s talking about.

And, let’s be honest. I doubt that a simple mistake means the author doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But one simple mistake is all it takes to force the reader to re-evaluate everything the author’s written, at least in that particular article/essay/etc.

When you’re trying to be persuasive, you can’t afford a simple misuse.

(apologies to American Prospect: “On America’s Double Standard,” by Harold Koh [October 1, 2004])