In this free-wheeling era, when the English language is often applied with little supervision, it’s common for purists to complain about the abuse of words.
For instance, I dislike it when things are indicated instead of said. And impact gets rough treatment, as it’s transmogrified into a Franken-adjective (impactful) and is too often made to serve as a substitute for affect — probably by people who are unsure whether to use that word or effect.
And there should be a petition to remove the word literally from use, for at least a lengthy rehabilitation and perhaps a permanent retirement.
But I was surprised to learn that in 19th-century Britain, readers viewed words like lengthy and reliable as signs of the coming apocalypse. It turns out that those words, along with talented andtremendous, were imports from America.
As Matthew Engel writes at the BBC, “The poet Coleridge denounced ‘talented’ as a barbarous word in 1832, though a few years later it was being used by William Gladstone. A letter-writer to the Times, in 1857, described ‘reliable’ as vile.” [Read More]
What Started the “Two Way” discussion (Below)
By Matthew Engel I have had a lengthy career in journalism. I hope that’s because editors have found me reliable. I have worked with many talented colleagues. Sometimes I get invited to parties and meet influential people. Overall, I’ve had a tremendous time.
All of these words we use without a second thought were never part of the English language until the establishment of the United States.
The Americans imported English wholesale, forged it to meet their own needs, then exported their own words back across the Atlantic to be incorporated in the way we speak over here. Those seemingly innocuous words caused fury at the time.
The poet Coleridge denounced “talented” as a barbarous word in 1832, though a few years later it was being used by William Gladstone. A letter-writer to the Times, in 1857, described “reliable” as vile.
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.]
‘Make no mistake,’ Obama is a big fan of his own catchphrases
BY ANTHONY DECEGLIE AND JENNY MERKINMONDAY, MARCH 28, 2011
Statistics gathered by the Global Language Monitor reveal that Obama has said it 2,924 times since he was sworn into office more than two years ago.
Other signature Obama sayings include “Here’s the deal” (1,450 times) and “Let me be clear,” (1,066 times). In a nod to the tough financial times he has faced, the president’s fifth most popular motto is “It will not be easy.”
Obama’s reheated rhetoric has recently come under fresh scrutiny. Parts of his speech warning Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to honor the United Nations’ cease-fire pact were strikingly similar to the words spoken by President George W. Bush when he launched military strikes in Afghanistan.
“Our goal is focused. Our cause is just. And our coalition is strong,” Obama said. Bush, nearly a decade earlier: “Your mission is defined. Your objectives are clear. Your goal is just.”
Make no mistake, The Daily is hoping Obama lifts his creative game and “wins the future” (another rhetorical crutch) when it comes to this public speaking deal. Although we understand it will not be easy.
Scale of Top Sayings (Source: The Global Language Monitor, as of March 25)
#1 “Make no mistake” — 2,924 times
#2 “Win the future” — 1,861 times; 9 times in his 2011 State of the Union address
Pundits jumped on Sarah Palin when she recently tweeted that people should “refudiate” plans for a New York City mosque near Ground Zero.
“Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate,” Palin tweeted.
The tweet was quickly deleted, and refute replaced refudiate, but the clips of Palin using the word on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show have not gone away. Nor has the flap over how the former governor and vice presidential candidate let her linguistic slip show.
Still, while Palin is no Shakespeare — a famous coiner of words — it may be wrong to misunderestimate refudiate too quickly.
“In English, the tradition is words bubble up from the people,” said Paul J.J. Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor in Austin. “If it’s used, it’s accepted as a word.”
George W. Bush’s notorious use of misunderestimate is a good example of how what’s called a portmanteau word can find acceptance.
Like an old-fashioned portmanteau traveling case that opens into two compartments like a book, portmanteau words such as refudiate combine two other words in form and meaning. [Read More.]
It’s hard to refudiate that we lost one of our great TV journalists and guardians of the language with the recent death of NBC’s Edwin Newman.
In fact, it’s impossible to refudiate – because “refudiate” isn’t a word.
We imagine that Newman, who displayed a strong sense of humor in his TV commentaries, writings and appearances on David Letterman’s old morning show and “Saturday Night Live,” might have gotten a rueful chuckle out of Sarah Palin’s tweeted mash-up of “refute” and “repudiate.”
Newman, whose death at age 91 was reported Wednesday, famously asked in “Strictly Speaking,” his 1974 bestseller on the state of language, “Will America be the death of English?”
GLM Comment: In fact the exact opposite has occurred — American English has spurred the English to a new level, from Old English, to Middle English, to Modern English to what might be deemed, in contemporary fashion, English 2.0.
Recent evidence doesn’t bode well for the mother tongue. The folks at Merriam-Webster this month named “refudiate” the Word of the Summer – and reported that the non-word spurred many searches on its online dictionary.
Meanwhile, The Global Language Monitor last week released its annual list of the popular “telewords” (which isn’t really a word itself). Placing No. 3 on the group’s “Top Words from Television” list for the 2009-2010 TV season was “guido.”
That anti-Italian slur became a catchword, thanks to the cast of “Jersey Shore” – a place, at least on MTV, where young people foolishly acting out stereotypes are celebrated and rewarded. (In other signs of the times, The Monitor’s top two entries were “BP Spillcam” and “dysfunctional.”) [Read More.]
With less than two months to go until the November midterm elections, a clear winner is beginning to emerge in the race to declare the year’s biggest political buzzword.
Hey, buzzwords matter. Who could forget — no matter how much we might like to – such hits from years past as “chad,” “Swift Boat” and “lipstick” as it might be smeared on a pig or a pitbull?
On Tuesday, the website Global Language Monitor, based in Austin, which has been monitoring words on thousands of news, blogs and social network sites since 2003, announced the No. 1 political buzzword so far this year – beating out “climate change,” “Obama Muslim,” “lower taxes” and even “tea partiers” – is (drum roll please) “the narrative.”
The Narrative? “It’s been running strong since last spring,” GLM President Paul J.J. Payack told me in a telephone interview.
That confirmed my suspicion. I don’t even have a computerized algorithm like Payack does, but I, too, had begun to notice in my fanatical surfing of political media that the word “narrative” was popping up with increasing frequency.
For example, Steve and Cokie Roberts observed in a recent column, “For a growing number of Americans, President Barack Obama’s narrative no longer defines who he is.”
Columnist Maureen Dowd similarly wondered back in June how such a gifted storyteller as Obama could “lose control of his own narrative.”
E.J. Dionne, writing in The New Republic, notes Obama has decided to “confront a deeply embedded media narrative that sees a Republican triumph as all but inevitable.”
In fact, “narrative” was popping up so much in reference to Obama as he grappled with crises like the Gulf oil spill that a Washington Post reporter was inspired to lead one feature with, “Sing to me of the Obama narrative, Muse.” [Read More.]
Katrina Continues to Impact Language, Media and Politics
AUSTIN, Texas. (August 30, 2010) – Katrina had a deep and lasting impact on how America looks at catastrophes and crises in the early 21st century. And Katrina’s influence is becoming all the more pervasive as the effects of the crisis linger and the reality of the magnitude of the destruction continues to come to light. An exclusive analysis by the Global Language Monitor (GLM) using it analytical resources, underscores how some five years after the event, Katrina continues to have an out-sized impact on our cultural landscape. Last year, GLM ranked the Top Stories in the Global Media during the first decade of the 21st century. Katrina ranked No. 8.
Background: It is often said that the war in Viet Nam was the first war to be broadcast directly into American living rooms (back when people still gathered for dinner together and watched network news broadcasts). We watched in horror at the mass destruction of the Towers falling a quarter of a century later, many of us on our computer screens. But it was the unfolding of the inundation of New Orleans after the levees gave way that provided us with any number of up-close-and personal tragedies that would unfold (and float) before our disbelieving eyes.
Among the most prominent example of Katrina’s continuing cultural impact include:
Refugee vs. Evacuee – At the time GLM’s analysis found that the term for the displaced, refugees, appeared 5 times more frequently in the global media than the more neutral, evacuees. At the term, refugee was cited as racially insensitive. Never endorsed by the AP Stylebook, currently the word refugee is used in the media some fifty times more than evacuee.
“Heckova job, Brownie!” – GLM named this paraphrase of President Bush’s actual remark, “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job” as the most memorable phrase of 2005. The phrase, according to a Reuter’s report at the time, “became a national punch line for countless jokes and pointed comments about the administration’s handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster”. Even now variations of the phrase are used to criticize less-than-stellar efforts, such as when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote, “Heck of a job, Barry” (her nickname for President Obama) in her Dec. 29th, 2009 column.
Apocalyptic Imagery — The Southeast Asia Tsunami that killed over 200,000 people occurred nine months before Katrina, so audiences were somewhat familiar with horrific images of exotic locales as scenes of mass destruction. However, the thought of the devastation unfolding in a major, revered US city, with the world watching the only remaining superpower, apparently unable to mobilize the necessary resources to stop the ongoing destruction and loss of life proved more than the press could handle. Immediately, the global press echoed with apocalyptic imagery. The Times in London led with: “Devastation that could send an area the size of England back to the Stone Age” and continued describing “a paranoid post-apocalyptic landscape … where corpses lie amid a scene of Biblical devastation, any semblance of modern society has gone.”
The Hiroshima Analogy – Katrina hit landfall shortly after the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. AP cited Mississippi governor Haley Barbour “Struggling with what he calls Hurricane Katrina’s nuclear destruction … [showing] the emotional strain of leading a state through a disaster of biblical proportions”. However, the analogy continues to be used in light of the lingering effects of a drawn-out and, some would argue, less-than-successful recovery effort. There are still 55,000 uninhabitable buildings half of which the new mayor has pledged to remove by 2014; many still lack essential services; the levees remain in questionable condition, and most importantly, some 20-to-25% of the population has failed to return.
5. Storm and Scientific Terminology — The public has a much better understanding of the specific terminology surrounding hurricanes and tropical storms. This would include:
Saffir-Simpson Scale, which predicts the destructive power of a hurricane,
Category or Hurricane Scale that measures the strength of a hurricane’s strength, from low to high (1 to 5). Katrina peaked at Category 5 but at landfall fell to Category 3.
Storm Surge, the wall of water pushed in from of a hurricane. Katrina’s was about 30 feet, the highest on record.
Levee, the massive, supposedly impermeable earthen walls, meant to hold back storm surges. New Orleans has some 350 miles of levees. An unfortunate fact about levees, once they let water in, they can actually prevent it from going out.
Naming System for Hurricanes, which has been in place for some fifty years. They names are alphabetically sorted, alternating men’s and women’s names. The list was exclusively female until 1979. Names are recycled every 6 years. Influential hurricanes have their names retired. Katrina was obviously retired.
6. The name Katrina, according to the Social Security Administration, has fallen sharply in popularity. In 2004 Katrina was the 274th most popular names for girls born in the US; in 2009 it ranked at 815.
For historical coverage of Hurricane Katrina from the Global Language Monitor, go here.
Austin, Texas, USA. September 11, 2008. (Updated) The Global Language Monitor today released an updated analysis of how the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and the pending targets in Washington, D.C., widely suspected to be the White House or the Capitol Building, have changed the way Americans speak in terms of vernacular, word choice and tone.
Updating an earlier analysis completed on the Fifth Anniversary of the attacks, it a continued and historic change in an ‘unCivil War‘ in terms of the vitriolic exchange currently witnessed on the American Political scene.According to Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of GLM (www.LanguageMonitor.com), these are a few of the ways where the events of 9/11 have impacted the way Americans speak.
1. 9/11 — The first case is the use of 9/11, itself, as a shorthand for the 2001 terrorist attacks. Using various web metrics, 9/11 outpaces any other name, including the spelled out ‘September 11th” by 7:1 margin. This designation in itself it quite interesting. It is true that Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the Pearl Harbor attack as “December 7th, 1941 as a day which will live in infamy”. But there were no “12/7″ rallying cries thereafter. Neither were the dates immortalized of the original battles of the Korean War, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident which preceded the major escalation of the Vietnam War, The First Gulf War, The Afganistan siege, or even the recent Iraqi Invasion. Only the 7/7 attacks on the London Subway system are recorded in common memory by their date (and primarily in the UK in general,and London in particular).
2. Ground Zero — The name Ground Zero evokes a sacred place, where the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers once stood. It is also revered as a burial ground since thousands of bodies literally vaporized in the ensuing collapse with no remains found whatsoever. Almost universally, it is capitalized as any other proper name, with a few exceptions, most notably the New York Times. Even this week, The Times insisted on referring to Ground Zero in the lower case, calling it ‘the area known as ground zero’. (Sic) Names are officially bestowed in a number of ways, most often by bureaucratic committees following arcane sets of rules, answering to few. In this case, we kindly request those bureaucrats to follow the lead of hundreds of millions around the world who have formally bestowed upon that special place, the formal name of Ground Zero.
3. Hero — In mythology, heroes were men and women often of divine ancestry endowed with the gifts of courage and strength. In reality, everyday heroes of the late 20th and early 21st centuries were sports figures (‘Be like Mike’ and ‘Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio’), comic book and cartoon characters ala Superman and Spiderman, and all too frequently ‘anti-heroes’ known for the colossal damage they might inflict upon a helpless (and often hapless) world. Into this tableaux, came the heroes of 9/11, very real men and women, rushing into and up the Towers as everyone else was rushing down and out; rushing the cockpit of Flight 93, with knives and forks and steaming hot coffee, forcing the startled highjackers to abandon their plans of crashing into the Capitol or White House rather than the previously unheralded soil of Swanksville, PA; and the men and women who quietly stood their posts at the Pentagon, just doing their duty, not knowing if they would be subjected to another horrific, and more deadly, attack at any moment. In the post-9/11 world, the term has now come to apply to any who place their lives in danger to foster the public good, especially ‘first-responders’ such as: firefighters, EMTs, and police, who quietly place their lives on the line every day.
4. -stan — The suffix in Persian and related languages that means, literally, ‘land of,’ hence, Afghanistan or Land of the Afghans, or Kurdistan (or Kurdish Territories), or even this relatively new moniker: Londonistan.Talibanistan, referring to Afganistan and the ‘tribal lands’ in Pakistan in the New York Times Sunday Magazine is the latest instantiation.
5. The unCivil War — Since 9/11 after a very short reprieve, the political discourse of American politics has, arguably, descended to its lowest level since the Civil-War era when Lincoln was typically depicted as a know-nothing, Bible-spouting Baboon. Even speech of the Watergate era was spared the hyperbole commonly heard today, as respect for the institution of the presidency remained high. Today, political opponents are routinely called ‘liars,’ are typically compared to Hitler, Nazis and Fascists; are accused of purposely allowing New Orleans’ inundation in order to destroy disenfranchised elements of our population, and so on. It is very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of this reaction. It has been suggested that in the face of a nearly invisible, constantly morphing, enemy, we have turned the attack inward, upon ourselves, and our institutions.
For more information, call 1.512.815.8836, email info@LanguageMonitor.com, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.
How the 2004 Presidential Election Impacted the Way Americans Speak
Danville, California (November 11, 2004) MetaNewsWire The recently concluded Presidential Election of 2004 has significantly impacted the manner in which Americans communicate with each other and not always in a positive way. For the eight months leading up to the Election, the Global Language Monitor (GLM) has tracked the way Americans communicate with each other about politics. To do this, GLM created its exclusive PQ Index (Political-sensitivity Quotient), a proprietary algorithm that tracks politically sensitive words and phrases in the print, electronic media and the Internet. Some forty words and phrases were analyzed for the Post-Election Survey, including flip flop/flopping, quagmire, Fahrenheit 911, liar!, and misleader.
The PQ Index is perhaps the most in-depth, algorithmic analysis of political word usage ever attempted during a US Presidential campaign. After meeting certain threshold criteria, the index measured how frequently the words and phrases were used in their given political contexts. Then were then tracked on a bi-weekly basis, with greater weight provided for appearances in the major media. Additionally, greater weight was assigned to changes in frequency of appearance the closer the survey came to the election, itself.
Perhaps the one point of agreement by both Republicans and Democrats in the immediate aftermath of the campaign was that moral values played a vastly more important role than had hitherto been estimated. This was re-enforced by the exit polls conducted by Edison Media Research with Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool, which distributed their information to the media through the Associated Press.
The PQ Index picked up this trend months earlier, when issues related to moral values would surface and then, actually, gain in strength as the campaign progressed. By the end of the campaign, these moral values-related words and phrases dominated the pre-Election PQ Index (Political-sensitivity Quotient) of Hot Political Buzzwords released on November 1. Specifically, thirteen or more of the top 20 words and phrases that dominated the media in the run-up to the election, can be classified as directly related to the moral values.
Both the major parties and the mainstream media appear to be surprised at the primacy of the moral values issue atop the exit-poll surveys, though they have used the terms tracked in the PQ Index some hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of times in the preceding month. What led to this miss was that fact that the moral values question was narrowly interpreted to mean the gay marriage and the Mary Cheney incident. (Both Kerry and Edwards cited the sexuality of the vice presidents daughter, Mary Cheney in their debates, a move widely viewed in the subsequent polls as gratuitous.)
In fact, the idea of moral values includes media bias, flip flopping for political gain, the question of a just or unjust war, the disrespecting of a wartime president (as in Fahrenheit 911), tagging the Chief Executive as a Liar or misleader and the rise of the uncivil war in political discourse / dis-coarse. In fact, The Top Five terms in the November PQ Index can all be viewed as related to moral values, as can be seven of the Top Ten — and 13 of the Top Twenty.
Another factor has been the rampant incivility be found in the political discourse in American politics which has reached unprecedented heights or, rather, lows. It can be argued that not since the Civil War era, when President Lincoln was frequently depicted by adversaries as a gangly, gaping baboon, has the discourse sunken to such a profane level. In fact, such is the decline in the political discourse during this campaign that future historians might actually wonder if the battle being fought was between the “Blue States” and the “Red States” rather than between the forces of Terrorism and The West.
This phenomenon is also related to the “Myth of the 24-Hour News Cycle,” where it is argued that once a politically-sensitive buzzword is launched into todays media world, it seems to persist for an indeterminate period, building a kind of media momentum and extending the news cycle rather than shrinking it. This persistence seems at odds with the general perception of the media being fixated on the 24 hours news cycle.
Some of the key words and phrases that have gained visibility during the 2004 Presidential Election follow.
Colossal Error: Kerrys judgment on Bushs Iraq policy. Evidently following California Olive Growers Association Guidelines for measuring the size of olives — Large, Extra Large, Jumbo, Gigantic, Colossal and Super Colossal. This leaves wiggle room for a ‘super-colossal error’.
Flip Flop/Flopping: Formerly referred to gymnastic routines, pancakes, and dolphin acts (Flipper); now a mainstream political term.
Girlie Men: His Honor, the Governator’s, characterization of political opponents.
Global Test: Kerrys description of the bar he would set before committing the US to pre-emptive strikes
Incuriosity: The campaign season with the President being labeled as Incurious George.
Jobless Recovery: A catch=phrase belied by the creation of 2.1 million new jobs in 2004.
Liars!: Signifies the virulence of the name-calling between opponent supporters. Bush wins the ‘Liar Poll with a 2:1 lead over Kerry.
Liberal: Now looked upon as a pejorative; for future reference, please use progressive.
Mary Cheney: For better or for worse, now a household name used in more than 100,000 media citations in the preceding six weeks..
Media Bias: A contentious issue, especially when used in conjunction with the Dan Rather “60 Minutes” imbroglio.
Misleader: MoveOn.org started this all by calling the sitting president a ‘misleader’.
Moral Values: Currently in more than 4,000 media stories; widely varies in interpretation.
Political Incivility: A catch-all category for various rude directives — Cheney, Heinz-Kerry, et al. combined here.
Quagmire: A fading, Viet Nam-era term rescued from obscurity.
Red States/Blue States: Before November 2, 2004, a relatively unknown term, a shorthand used by political pundits, describing Republican-leaning states vs. Democrat-leaning states.
Rush-to-War: The short-hand by Administration opponents for the run-up to the Iraq war.
Swift Boats: Might have torpedoed Kerrys presidential aspirations. Actually, Fast Patrol Craft (PCF), small, shallow draft-water vessels operated by the United States Navy for counterinsurgency (COIN) operations during the Vietnam War.
Two Americas: John Edwards frequent of America as divided between rich and poor, the jobless and the employed, liberals (err, progressives) and conservatives.
Danville, California (October 19, 2004) Though it is commonly assumed that the media is now on a 24-hour news cycle, the opposite appears to be true, according to an exclusive analysis of The Global Language Monitor’s PQ Index (Political-sensitivity Quotient). Though the day-to-day headlines of the 2004 Presidential Campaign are relatively transient, the ideas encapsulated in the political buzzwords that GLM tracks take several months to cycle through the electronic and print media, the internet, and cyberspace, particularly the blogosphere.
Once a ‘politically-sensitive’ buzzword is launched into today’s media world, it seems to persist for an indeterminate period, building a kind of ‘media momentum’ and extending the news cycle rather than shrinking it. This persistence seems at odds with the general perception of the media being fixated on the ’24 hours news cycle’.
The PQ Index (Political-sensitivity Quotient) released monthly by The Global Language Monitor is a proprietary algorithm that tracks politically sensitive words and phrases in the media and on the Internet.
A current example: the PQ Index has been the tracking the “Swift Boats” issue for over six months as shown in Figures 1 and 2. Though it peaked in the last few weeks at No. 1 in the August Tracking Index with the release of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads, it remains strongly entrenched in the Top Ten in the October survey. The evidence suggests that the issue will persist for some time to come; definitely through November 2nd.
Another example might be the labeling of President Bush as a Liar. This first surfaced in early spring as a result of ads launched by 527 organizations, such as MoveOn.org, in an action without precedent in the mainstream media, boldly labeling the sitting president a Liar. This was an early version of this years attack ads that would proliferate throughout the year, and was little noticed by the mainstream media at the time, except as a curiosity.
The ads, however, proved to be harbingers of what was to follow. Over the course of the next six months the label stuck, increasingly resonating especially on the Internet and in the blogosphere. This month the term sits at No. 11 on the PQ Index, down from No. 4 in August. In fact, Bush as Liar! is up some 1400% since the beginning of the year. An additional wrinkle is that Kerry, too, is now being labeled as a Liar! by his critics with nearly 40% of the references tracked by the PQ Index labeling the Democratic nominee as such.
Another example is the Dead and Done Presidents phenomenon. With the passing of Ronald Reagan in June and the much-anticipated publication of Bill Clintons autobiography the next month, these two former presidents, leapt to the top of the PQ Index in June and July respectively. In the October Index, they both still rank in the Top Twenty demonstrating the persistence of their long-shadows over the current campaign.
Fahrenheit, representing Michael Moores controversial film, Fahrenheit 451, took the top ranking in the July PQ Index, jumping some 400% from the previous month. Fahrenheit maintained its No. 1 position in August and currently ranks as No. 6 in the October Index. Mr. Moore, more than most, seems to have appreciated the new “Surprise” phenomenon, though for maximum impact he might have, in retrospect, released his film a month later, in August rather than July.
And now, in what could be a sign of mounting difficulties for the Democratic Presidential Campaign, this months top political buzzwords (including ‘Dan Rather-related Bias, ‘Liberal,’ Global Test,’ ‘Flip flop/flopping’ and Swift Boats) are creating an inhospitable climate, in many cases overshadowing the key messages of the Democratic Nominee, according to the October PQ Index.
In the October PQ Index, Swift Boats is actually getting more media hits and citations than all otherkey Kerry messages combined. These messages include; “Two Americas,” “Bush the Misleader,” “jobless recovery,” and “global outsourcing”.
With weeks remaining in the Campaign, there is a very real danger that Kerrys key messages will continue to be swamped by the “flip flop,” “Swift Boat” and “Rathergate” (and now the Mary Cheney) issues.
This is not to say that an October Surprise is not possible. Based on recent history and the uncertainty associated with al Qaeda it would be wise to expect any number of such events. However, the importance of the August Surprise with its attendant , momentum-building sustainability, should not be overlooked by current, or future, campaigns.