NY Times attributes ‘How’s that Working Out for You? to Sarah Palin?
According to Tom Kuntz in the New York Times’ Week in Review (June 18, 2011):
Refudiate this: Sarah Palin’s undeniable impact on the English language. Exhibit A, of course, is the idiom she lent wildfire currency to only last year, by asking at a Tea Party convention on Feb. 6, “How’s that hopey-changey stuff working out for ya?” Witness the meme’s broad cultural reach ever since and — perhaps unfortunate in some cases — its seemingly limitless versatility.
“How’s that working out for ya?” — Herman Cain in the first Republican presidential debate on May 5, belittling rule by Washington politicians.
“Someone really should borrow Sarah Palin’s question and ask [Prime Minister] David Cameron: ‘How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?’ ” — The Observer, London, March 27
“Hey, seniors, how’s that no-tax thing been working out for ya?” — Letter to the editor, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 10 …
[and it goes on to cite another half dozen instances]
The Global Language Monitor has traced back the meme at least to the 1999 film Fight Club; the phrase, no doubt, can be traced much earlier.
GLM Comment : We think not. But perhaps an unexpected ability to fashion an English Sentence.
One week ago today, the MoJo DC bureau was consumed by the arrival of Sarah Palin’s emails covering the first half of her half-term as Alaska’s governor. As David Corn detailed, there were plenty of interesting discoveries—a less than chilly attitude toward climate change, for instance, and a sometimes obsessive attitude toward media critics (marginal and otherwise).
While we were poring over the documents, though, Michael McLaughlin of AOL’s Weird News was taking a different approach:
AOL Weird News brought samples to two writing analysts who independently evaluated 24,000 pages of the former governor’s emails. They came back in agreement that Palin composed her messages at an [8.5] level, an excellent score for a chief executive, they said…
“She’s very concise. She gives clear orders. Her sentences and punctuations are logical,” Payack said. “She has much more of a disciplined mind than she’s given credit for.”
Although it’s like comparing apples to oranges, Payack said that famous speeches like Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was a 9.1 and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” oration rated a 8.8 on the scale.
Having read several thousand pages of the Palin emails, I think apples and oranges might be a bit of an understatement here. But there’s also a bit of truth there: Palin’s written communications are noticeably more coherent than her efforts to explain herself verbally (witness: Paul Revere-gate).
Palin’s Emails: What Her Remarkably Lucid Prose Says About the Art of Teaching Writi
June 16, 2011 | 12:00 am
Sarah Palin’s emails are telling us something about remedial writing classes at our universities and colleges, and it’s not what you think. Call her defensive or parochial based on the cache of her spontaneous writings while serving as governor of Alaska, but
something easy to miss is that Palin, in contrast to her meandering, involuted speaking style, is a thoroughly competent writer—more so than a great many people most of us likely know, including college graduates.
Indeed, her facility in writing proves something one might be pardoned for supposing she was exaggerating about in Going Rogue, her autobiography, in which she limns a childhood portrait of herself as a bibliophilic sort of tot:
Reading was a special bond between my mother and me. Mom read aloud to me – poetry by Ogden Nash and the Alaska poet Robert Service, along with snippets of prose …. My siblings were better athletes, cuter and more sociable than I, and the only thing they had to envy about me was the special passion for reading that I shared with our mother.
That’s right, Sarah “you betcha” Palin was, of all things, a bookworm, excited to learn to spell “different” and winning a poetry contest for a poem about Betsy Ross. And as such, it is predictable that her emails would evidence such casually solid command of the language—even if her oral rendition of it is a different matter entirely.
Once we understand that, it leads to some serious questions, as posed by books getting buzz at present such as Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s Academically Adrift and In the Basement of the Ivory Tower by the anonymous “Professor X.” How sensible is our assigning millions of freshmen each year to classes intended to teach them a skill so deeply rooted in unconscious facilitation at an early age?
To get a sense, it helps to see a few of these emails. Because email is written speech, it’s easy to miss artfulness in them. Yet, take this Palin passage: “Even CP has admitted locking up tax rates as Glenn suggests is unacceptable to the legislature, the Alaskan public, this administration, and the Constitution.”
The spelling is flawless—and unlikely to be completely a product of spell-check, which misses errors and often creates others. More to the point, she has an embedded clause (“locking up tax rates”) nested into a main one, with another clause “as Glenn suggests” nested within the embedded one. That’s good old-fashioned grammar school “syntax.” I have known plenty of people with B.A.s who could barely pull it off properly at gunpoint, and several others who would only bother to at gunpoint.
Equally graceful despite its mundane content: “Cowdery telling a kid what’s acceptable and what isn’t inside these four walls??? Puleeeze. A three-pound puppy vs. all the CBC crap that he helped dump around here?” You hear an actual human voice here. We tell some people “I can hear your voice in the way you write”—because it’s unusual for people to be able to “write” themselves. Palin is one of the people who can. [Read More.]
Sarah Palin’s Emails Written At 8th Grade Level — Better Than Some CEOs
The huge cache of Sarah Palin’s emails released Friday offered not only a chance to see what she was writing about during her uncompleted term as Alaska’s governor, but also an opportunity to see how well she writes.
AOL Weird News brought samples to two writing analysts who independently evaluated 24,000 pages of the former governor’s emails. They came back in agreement that Palin composed her messages at an eighth-grade level, an excellent score for a chief executive, they said.
“However, the emails say something else. Ms. Palin writes emails on her Blackberry at a grade level of 8.5.
“If she were a student and showing me her work, I’d say ‘It’s fine, clear writing,'” he said, admitting that emails he wrote scored lower than Palin’s on the widely used Flesch-Kincaid readability test.
“She came in as a solid communicator,” said Paul J.J. Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor. The emails registered as an 8.2 on his version of the test. “That’s typical for a corporate executive.”
An example of Palin’s strongest writing came on Jul. 17, 2007 in an email to Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell about the controversial Gravina Island Bridge, infamously called the “Bridge to Nowhere.”
“We cant afford it, the Feds won’t pay for it, the general populace isn’t placing it as a high priority … can you diplomatically express that?! Of course we want infrastructure — and this is NOT a “bridge to nowhere” (that is so offensive), but as it stands today with the highest-cost bridge design selected by the Ketchikan community, we need to find a lower-cost alternative [if] a bridge will be built.”
“She’s very concise. She gives clear orders. Her sentences and punctuations are logical,” Payack said. “She has much more of a disciplined mind than she’s given credit for.” [Read More.]