“Refudiating” Word Games: What would Edwin Newman Think?

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What would have the late newsman and grammar guru Edwin Newman thought about airwaves and cyberspace filled with “refudiate” and “guido?”

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By JERE HESTERSep 16, 2010
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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.]


Politics Now Driven by Competing Narratives

Clarence Page’s (Chicago Tribune, contributor to PBS News Hour, etc.)  take on this new phenomenon.

GLM Comment:  The Global Language Monitor has been tracking political buzzwords since 2003.  See

our latest news on Political Narratives at our NarrativeTracker pages.

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.]


The Narrative: Top Political Buzzword for 2010 Midterm Elections

Austin, Texas, April 5, 2010 — “The Narrative’ is the Top Political Buzzword for the upcoming election cycle, according to a global Internet and media analysis by Austin-based Global Language Monitor.  GLM has been monitoring political buzzwords since 2003.


Read about The Narrative in Congressional Quarterly’s Political Wire.

“The Narrative” is now appearing thousands of times in the global media on the Internet and blogosphere as well as throughout the world of social media.  The current ‘sense’ of the ancient phrase is being used as the main stream of public opinion running in the media that needs to be fed, encouraged, diverted or influenced by any means possible.

Current examples include:

  • “Barack Obama, US president, has lost control of the political narrative …” Financial Times, Feb 15.
  • “The Start of a New Obama Narrative” (Huffington Post, March 26)
  • “The Obama White House has lost the narrative in the way that the Obama campaign never did” (New York Times, March 6)
  • “Ok. Has the narrative changed because of the health care success? (Washington Post, March 26)
  • “The only thing that changes is the narrative.” (CNN, March 23)

“The rise of the ‘The Narrative’ actually renders actual positions on the issues almost meaningless, since the positions now matter less than what they seem to mean.” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of GLM. “The goal of political campaigns now is to spin a storyline that most ‘resonates’ with the electorate, or segments thereof”.

Read the discussion generated by MinnPost’s Eric Black

The word ‘narrative’ comes to us from the 16th century and traditionally means something told in the form of a story.  It is ultimately from the Latin, narrativus, meaning something told, related or revealed (as in a story).  One of the best-known examples is The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas.

The Global Language Monitor has been tracking political buzzwords since the turn of the century.

  • Top Political Buzzword of the 2000 Presidential Election was ‘Chad’.
  • Top Political Buzzword of the 2004 Presidential Election was ‘Incivil’ as in the InCivil War, alluding to the vicious war of words between the Kerry and Bush (43) camps.
  • Top Political Buzzword of the 2008 Presidential Election was ‘Change’.

More recently, GLM has tracked the following about political buzzwords in the media:

To track political buzzwords, Global Language Monitor uses the Predictive Quantities Index, a proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in print and electronic media, on the Internet and throughout the blogosphere, now including social media. The words and phrases are tracked in relation to their frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets.


Anger & Outrage on Rise Since Obama’s inauguration

Trend:  Disillusionment, Anger & Outrage

on the Rise Since Obama’s inauguration

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‘Deficit of Trust’ and ‘Numbing weight of our political process’ appear to be keepers

Obama State of the Union at 8th Grade Level; Deft use of Passive Constructions

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Austin, TX February 1, 2010.  According to an exclusive analysis by the Global Language Monitor, the disillusionment, anger, and outrage acknowledged by President Obama in his State of the Union address has been on the rise since Obama’s election in November 2008.

“Much has been written about what the President in his State of the Union message called the ‘numbing weight of our political process’ and the ‘deficit of trust’ it thus engenders,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst.  “The disillusionment, anger and outrage should not be a surprise, especially to students of political language, who have been analyzing what is being said in the political realm over the last 18 months.  (That this comes as a revelation to our political elites, however, should serve, once again, as a sobering lesson or, even, cautionary tale.)”

Though little noticed by the media, GLM found that in early February, just weeks after the Obama inauguration, the ‘words of despair and fear relating to the global economic meltdown were drowning out those of hope in the global media in the ninety days since the US presidential election on November 4, 2008’.

The representative fear-related words chosen:  Fear, Despair, Abandoned, Desperate and/or Desperation.  In its analysis of the global print and electronic media since the US presidential election, GLM found that those words were used with 18-23% more frequency than compared to their use in the ninety days following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 of 2001 and 90-days following the beginning of the Iraq War in March 2003.  (Even the word fear, itself, was at some 85% of the level it was used in the aftermath of both the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks and the onset of the Iraq War.)

In a separate but related study released in late March, Global Language Monitor found that the word ‘outrage’ had been used more in the global media that month than anytime this century, with the previous benchmark being the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  In particular, the word was used in association with the AIG bonuses, which had recently been distributed.

GLM examined the global print and electronic media for the seven days after the following events:  the 9/11 terrorist attacks in, the start of the Iraq War, and the week after the Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.

The ranking of ‘outrage’ usage in the media:

1. AIG Bonuses, 2009

2. 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001

3. Hurricane Katrina, 2005,

4. Iraq War, 2005

State of the Union Linguistic Analysis

In an evaluation of the State of the Union message, GLM found that the President used the passive voice to deflect responsibility (a time-honored SOTU tradition), and according to the White House transcript there was an overabundance of semi-colons (two dozen plus), some used correctly others in a baffling manner.  And then there was the grammatical lapse in disagreement in number:  “Each of these institutions are (sic) full of honorable men and women ….”    For the record, the President’s address came in at the 8.6 grade level, use of the passive was about 5%, the Grade Level was 8.6 (a bit higher than his Grant Park speech), and reading ease at 62 on a scale of 100 (not as easy to read as to hear).

For more details, send email to editor@globallanguagemonitor.com or call 1.512.815.8836.


Political Buzzwords Track Trajectory of Obama Presidency

Bailout, Climate Change, Birther, Healthcare Reform & Liberal at top

Obamamania and Politics of Change tumble as does Bush (as a Bogeyman)

Austin, Texas September 11, 2009 (Updated) – ‘Bailout’, ‘Climate Change’, ‘Birther’, ‘Health Care Reform’ and ‘Liberal’ were named the top political buzzwords since the Obama Inaugural. Rounding out the top ten were ‘recession’ (up some 1000% when linked to Obama), ‘Sarah Palin,’ the phrase ‘change you can believe in’ (down some 600% since the Inauguration), ‘AIG bonuses,’ and ‘Sotomayor,’ the new Supreme Court justice.  Perhaps, even more striking is the manner in which signature buzzwords such as ‘Politics of change’ (No. 37) and ‘Obamanania’ (No. 38) have tumbled.  Another finding:  the tactic of painting ‘Bush’ (No. 23) and, even, Cheney (No.28) as bogeymen is rapidly losing it effectiveness.

For the study, GLM used it proprietary algorithm, the Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI) to track the frequency of words and phrases in the global print and electronic media, on the Internet, throughout the blogosphere and social media as well as accessing proprietary databases. The PQI is a weighted Index, factoring in: long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity. The final list contains 40 words and phrases (see below).

“The top political buzzwords used since the Obama Inaugural show the sharp trajectory of his presidency,’ said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of The Global Language Monitor. “Our analysis differs from polls in that it is not what people say they think about various topics, but rather is a measurement of what words are actually being used and in which context.”

The Top Political Buzzwords since the Inaugural listes with rank and commentary follow.

Top Political Buzzwords September 1, 2009 Comment

Rank
1. Wall Street Bailout: Still resonates at very high score, no shrinkage
2. Climate Change Remains:  One of the Top 3 — for several years
3. Birther: Whatever it means, the issue looms large
4. Health Care Reform:  Health Care Reform comes in at a strong No. 4
5. Liberal:  This is not always a positive statement
6. Recession (linked to Obama):  Obama’s link to recession up 1000% since inauguration
7. Sarah Palin:  Fierce opposition to her, apparently adds to her allure
8. Change you can believe in:  Down almost 60% from January peak
9. AIG (Post-bailout Bonuses):  Bonuses after the Bailout still loom large in public mind
10. Sotomayor:  Wise Latina gets more news than Iraq War
11. Iraq War:  Fading from the public mind as Afghanistan advances
12. Socialism (linked with Obama):  Painting Obama as a Socialist apparently working
13. Outrage (Linked with Obama & AIG:  Outrage at AIG now linked to Obama administration
14. Public Option in HealthCare:  Public Option still center of debate
15. Stimulus Package:  Stimulus package still object of controversy
16. MObama (the Fashion Icon):  Michelle Obama image as global fashion icon rising rapidly
17. Beer Summit with Gates & Cambridge Police: Beer Summit resonates with all things ‘racial’
18. Middle-class taxes:  Concern is up about 170% since Inaugural
19. Current crisis as Depression:  Citations down some 50% since January
20. Transparency:  Idea of Transparency shrinking from view (down 30%)
21. Obama as a compromiser:  Continues to gain traction
22. Rush Limbaugh:  Rush bests the former president by only 5%
23. George Bush:  Warning to Dems:  Bush as Bogey man fading from view
24. Single Payer:  Healthcare solution view as government intervention; Up over 800% since Obama took office
25. Death Panel:  Up some 1500%, ranking only slightly ahead of Al Qaeda
26. Al qaeda:  Still lurking in the public mind
27. Town Hall Meetings:  Not to be easily dismissed
28. Dick Cheney:  Former No. 2,  now No. 28
29. Shovel Ready:  Where are all the ‘shovel-ready’ jobs?
30. Global Financial Restructuring:  This may take years to run its course
31. Iran election:  On the periphery of American consciousness
32. Wise Latina:  Short-term news bite, no lasting value
33. Financial meltdown:  Down 85% since January as he the new reality sets in
34. Worst Recession:  Not depression, but something different than a recession
35. Afghanistan:  Troop build-up mostly a Beltway discussion
36. Wee weeing:  According to Obama, Washington in late summer
37. Politics of change:  Biz as usual sends this plummeting 60% from Inaugural
38. Obamamania:  Yesterday’s news; down over 80% from Inaugural
39. Politics of fear:  Within 1/2 of 1% of Obamamania
40. Nuclear Iran   Drifting in and out of public consciousness

What’s the advantage of the PQI over the Polls?

The PQI is, perhaps, the ultimate ‘It is what it is’ measurement of consumer (and in this case Political) sentiment.

The PQI simply measures the occurrence of certain words or phrases in the print and electronic media (traditional or otherwise), on the Internet, and across the Blogosphere and social media, as well as accessing proprietary databases. It is by its very nature non-biased. When we take a statistical snapshot for the PQI there is no adjustment for ‘underrepresented’ groups, there are no assumptions about probability of turnout, the proportions of newly registered voters, traditional models, or expanded modularities. Rather, we take our measurements, check for the rate of positive or negative change in the appearance of a searched word or phrase (what we call velocity and momentum) and publish our results.


Words: Despair and Fear Drowning Out Hope in Global Media

Comparison of 90-days since Obama election to 9/11 and Start of Iraq War

Austin, TX February 10, 2009 – The Global Language Monitor has found that words of despair and fear relating to the global economic meltdown are drowning out those of hope in the global media in the ninety days since the US presidential election on November 4, 2008.

With thousands of global headlines centering on the deteriorating global economy followed by news of the human toll of people driven to despair and committing acts of desperation, GLM undertook an analysis of the language used in the global print and electronic media since the US presidential election.  GLM then compared their frequency of use to the ninety days following the 9/11 Terrorists attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 and the 90-day period following the outbreak of the Iraq War in 2003.  The representative fear-related words chosen:  Fear, Despair, Abandoned, Desperate/Desperation.

The analysis found that these words were used in the last ninety days with 18-23% more frequency since the historic Obama election than when compared to their use in the ninety days following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 of 2001 and 90-days following the beginning of the Iraq War in March 2003.  The one exception was that of the word fear, itself, though its use in relation to the economic meltdown was still some 85% of its use in the case of 9/11 and the Iraq War.

“The results are striking, especially, in contrast to the immense outpouring of global goodwill in response to the inauguration of Barack Omama, since the survey included the ten days immediately following Obama’s swearing in,” ” said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of the Global Language Monitor.

The specific breakdown of the keywords (and related variations) follows:

1. Abandoned — Abandoned appeared some 23% more frequently

2. Despair — Despair appeared some 18% more frequently

3. Desperation – Desperation appeared some 18% more frequently

4. Fear – Fear appeared some 85% of the frequency

Media and Analysts:  Call for Graphics


Top Buzzwords of 2008 Presidential Campaign: Two Weeks Out


Bailout falls dramatically; Experience and

 

Gender Rise in Campaign Buzzword List

‘Change’ and ’Climate Change’ in statistical tie for top position

Austin, TX, USA October 21, 2008 – In an analysis completed just two weeks before the US Presidential Elections the Global Language Monitor has announced that Change and Climate Change remain in a statistical tie for top spot in its list of Political Buzzwords of the 2008 Presidential Campaign, with Bailout falling dramatically to No. 13.

 

“ In the Change ranking, Obama outdistanced McCain by a 3:2 ratio, while in the No. 2 Experience ranking, McCain held a 3:2 edge over Obama,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor. “Joe the Plumber and ACORN voter registration references broke into the Top 25, at No. 19 and No. 22, respectively.  In a related finding, Gender (No. 10) continued to rise as Race (No. 20) continued to fall, raising the question if gender is the new race?” 

 

Political buzzwords are terms or phrases that become loaded with emotional freight beyond the normal meaning of the word.  For example, the word surge has been in the English-language vocabulary since time immemorial.  However, in its new context as an Iraq War strategy, it inspires a set of emotions in many people far beyond the norm.

 

The rank of Top Election Buzzwords, past rank, and commentary follow.

 

1.        Change (1) — Obama has a 3:2 edge over McCain with Change

2.        Climate Change (2) — Global warming within 1/2 of 1% for the overall lead

3.        Experience (5) — McCain has 3:2 edge over Obama with Experience

4.        Recession (4) — World economy imploding but still not officially a ‘recession’

5.        Gasoline (6) — Up one as the price dropsa1

6.        Obama Muslim Connection (8) — A persistent topic in Cyberspace; up 2

7.        Subprime (7) — How we got into this mess in the first place

8.        Surge (10) — One of the Top Words from ‘07 moving up ‘ 08 chart

9.        “That one” (12) – The remark has spurred the Obama base: ‘I’m for That One’

10.      Gender (9) – Is ‘gender’ the new ‘race’?

11.      Lipstick (13) — Any talk of Lipstick seems to spur McCain-Palin base

12.      Obama smoking (11) – Surprise here; continues to draw interest

13.      Bailout (3) – Bailout, as a word, dramatically slipping as reality of the entire debacle sets in

14.      “Just Words” (20) — Hillary’s comment on Obama still echoes through the media

15.      Washington Talking Heads (21) – Up six this past week alone

16.      Palin Swimsuit (24) – Fueled by Alec Baldwin on SNL:  Balin’s ‘way hotter in person’

17.      Al Qaeda (14) — Always lurking beneath the surface

18.      Price of oil (15) – Weakens as price declines

19.      Joe the Plumber (NR) – Breaks into Top 25 in debut

20.      Race (16) – Continues to drop in media buzz

21.      Jeremiah Wright (19) — Dr. Wright remains on the radar, down from No.2 at start

22.      Acorn Voter Registration (NR) – Debuts in Top 25; dramatic move over last week

23.      Internet fundraising (17) — Loses luster as story; down 6 more spots

24.      Rezko (25) — Obama’s relationship with Tony Rezko breaks into Top 25

25.      Raise taxes (18) Raise Taxes No 25; cut taxes No. 27:  Are you Listening?

 

Others

26.      Hockey Mom (22) – Loses a bit of steam

27.      Cut taxes (26) Both ‘cut’ and ‘raise’ down this week, again

28.      Nuclear Iran (23) Peaked out at No. 18

 

The ranking is determined by GLM’s PQI Index, a proprietary algorithm that scours the global print and electronic media, the Internet, and blogosphere for ‘hot’ political buzzwords and then ranks them according to year-over-year change, acceleration and directional momentum.  Using this methodology, GLM was the only media analytics organization that foresaw the ’04 electorate voting with their moral compasses rather than their pocketbooks.  

 

The Top Political Buzzwords for the 2006 Midterm Elections included:  Throes, Quagmire, Credibility, Global Warming, and Insurgency; the Top Political Buzzwords from the 2004 Campaign included:  Swift Boats, Flip Flop, Quagmire, Fahrenheit 911, Misleader, and Liar!

For more information, call 1.512.815.8836, email info@LanguageMonitor.com, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.


Top Buzzwords of Presidential Campaign 3 Weeks Out


 

 

Key Findings:

 

 

1.  ‘Gender’ trumps ‘Race’

2.  Experience is issue with Obama

3.  Obama Muslim rumors persist

 

Austin, TX, USA October 13, 2008 – In an analysis completed just weeks before the US Presidential Elections, the Global Language Monitor has announced that Change, Climate Change & Bailout stood atop the Top Political Buzzwords List released earlier today.  

It also found that ‘Gender’ now trumps ‘Race’, while questions about ‘experience’ remain an issue for both parties with Obama receiving 2.4 times more citations than Palin.  The analysis also determined that frequently discounted Obama Muslim-related rumors continue to persist, actually moving up on the chart. 

As this election cycle swings into its final phase, once again we are the seeing that the latest headlines are not always indicative of what is actually happening in the global print and electronic media, on the Internet and throughout the Blogosphere.  As in 2004, those paying too much attention to the ’24 Hour News Cycle’ are apt to miss the larger trends that will play a decisive role in the outcome of this election”, said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor. 

The complete list of Top Political Buzzwords, with ranking and commentary follow.

  PQI Oct 7, 2008 Comment
Rank    
1 Change  No 1 for the entire election Cycle; good bet for Word of the Year
2 Climate Change Bigger than ‘Bailout’ bigger than ‘Recession’
3 Bailout  Not even on the radar 90 days ago
4 Recession World economy imploding but still not officially a ‘recession’
5 Experience  Obama’s experience questioned 2.4 X more than that of Palin
6 Gasoline Though prices are dropping, still No. 5
7 Subprime How we got into this mess in the first place
8 Obama Muslim Connection A persistent topic in Cyberspace; up 7 spots
9 Gender Up 12 spots; more of an issue than ‘race’
10 Surge One of the Top Words from ’07 moving up ‘ 08 chart
11 Obama smoking Surpirse here; more recognition than one might anticipate
12 “That one” Has spurred the Obama base with ‘I’m for That One’ slogans
13 Lipstick Any talk of Lipstick seems to spur McCain-Palin base
14 Al Qaeda Always lurking beneath the surface
15 Price of oil A weaker issue as price declines
16 Race Falls from No. 4 in earlier survey as gender gains
17 Internet fundraising Loses some luster as it becomes normal (down 8 spots)
18 Raise taxes Causes more concern than ‘Cut taxes’ at No. 24
19 Jeremiah Wright  Dr. Wright remains on the radar though falling from No. 2
20 “Just Words”  Hillary’s comment on Obama still echos through the media
21 Washington Talking Heads Still in the Top Twenty, falling from No. 16.
22 Hockey Mom Causes headlines but not a top issue
23 Nuclear Iran Jumps into the Top 25 as issue persists
24 Palin Swimsuit Thankfully falls behind ‘Nuclear Iran’ as issue
25 Rezko Obama’s relationship with Tony Rezko breaks into Top 25
25 Cut taxes Not so much of a hot button as ‘Raise Taxes’ at No. 17

 

  

   For more on the Myth of the Twenty-four Hours News Cycle

 

 

   The Top Political Buzzwords for the 2006 Midterm Elections included:  Throes, Quagmire,

   Credibility, Global Warming, and Insurgency.  

 

   The Top Political Buzzwords from the 2004 Presidential Campaign included:  Swift Boats,

   Flip Flop, Quagmire, Fahrenheit 911, Misleader, and Liar!

 

 

For more information, call 1.512.815.8836, email info@LanguageMonitor.com, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.


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