"The Obama and McCain campaigns have agreed to an unusual free-flowing format for the three televised presidential debates, which begin Friday, but the McCain camp fought for and won a much more structured approach for the questioning at the vice-presidential debate, advisers to both campaigns said Saturday."
Patrick Healy, "Pact on Debates Will Let McCain and Obama Spar," New York Times, 21 September 2008.
What strange language we talk when we talk about politics: a "pact" is about making peace, typically with an international treaty; a "debate" is about a mode of structured deliberation; "sparring" is a faux fight. Yet when we read these three words in a headline about a TV meeting between two presidential candidates, the words do not immediately strike us as mismatched. Is this a sign of our sophistication or our confusion?