Austin Texas — October 4, 2012. In the first debate of the quadrennial Presidential Debate Season, it was like the 2010 Mid-terms all over again. Not that there were presidential debates in 2010. It’s just that President Obama seemed to revert to his ‘pre-shellacking’ public speaking form: a bit disengaged, a tad too dismissive and, dare we say it ‘professorial’?
Indeed, what seemed to surprise if not shock the 40,000,000 or so in last night’s viewing audience, was not the effective performance of Mitt Romney but rather the lackluster performance of the incumbent president. Many pundits had predicted the president would trounce his opponent in the debate, possibly creating an insurmountable gulf between them with some 30 days remaining before the election.
In mid-summer we published our Top Political Buzzwords of the Presidential Campaign and found profound differences between the actual concerns of the public and the political narratives of both parties. Last night’s debate was consistent with our findings; there was no talk of the politics of fear the ‘war against women’ of even mention of ‘the 47%’. However, the debate did point to profound difference in the belief systems of both parties, yet found enough common ground to produce distinct yet constructive and viable alternatives from which to choose.
One of the benefits of analyzing presidential debates, speeches and inaugural addresses for more than a decade, is the ability to make data-driven historical comparisons. These are especially effective when spotting trends and changes in direction. In 2007, spotted a man with a a truly captivating facility to turn an eloquent phrase. This man warranted comparisons with Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream’ and Reagan’s ‘Tear Down This Wall’ speeches with his own ‘Yes, We Can!’ victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park.
However, it also tracked Obama’s sojourn to a more ‘inaccessible,’ sometimes even pedestrian speaking style. There were a number of turning points, a number of these occurring in 2010.
The numbers from last might’s debate bear this changing dynamic this out. For the President, the numbers tracked with his BP Gulf Oil Speech: long sentences, more passive voice, and a ninth-grade reading level (all of which can be signatures of considerable erudition). However, the numbers can also signify a less direct, less immediate communications style that differs considerably from the Obama to whom we were first introduced.
For Romney, his numbers were the reverse of the President (at least for the night): shorter sentences, easier to understand, his seventh-grade reading level closer to the of Obama of Grant Park.
AUSTIN, Texas, July 12, 2012 — The Top Political Buzzwords are telling a far different story than either campaign is presenting to the American people, One hundred and twenty-days before the presidential election, the Global Language Monitor has found profound differences between the actual concerns of the public and the political narratives of both parties. The Top Political Buzzwords 120 Days Before the Vote, was released earlier today. GLM has tracked political buzzwords associated with the national political scene since 2003 in the process compiling perhaps the largest statistical database of the kind.
The “War Against Women” is next to last at No. 52 even though it figures quite heavily in the Democratic narrative. It ranks just below No. 51 Outsourcing, which is key to the narratives of both parties. Other political buzzwords on the top of mind in the campaigns but in the bottom ten in the survey include: the Bush Tax Cuts, Progressive Politics, the Decline in US Manufacturing, Political Stalemate (in Congress), Angry White Males, and the Obstructionist Congress.
The electorate definitely has a sense that the American Dream Still Alive (No.5.)though it is clearly Disappointed in the Obama Administration (No. 6).
The public is quite mindful of the negative tenor of the debate, reflected in the rankings of Toxic Politics (No.2), Haters and those who label their opponents as -phobic (such as Christophobic), (No. 15), and the Politics of Fear (No. 23). Perhaps this helps account for the fact that enthusiasm for the campaign is tempered by non-enthusiasm (Nos. 17 and 18).
The Top Social Issue in the survey was Pregnancy Reduction and Sex-selective Abortion at No. 25, the debate on which crosses the Progressive/Conservative chasm, though neither seems much discussed on the campaign trail.
Both parties would do well to note that Romney’s Wealth is dead last; the electorate no-doubt inured to the fact that US presidential candidates are frequently wealthy (for example, the Bushes and John Kerry each had fortunes equal to or larger than that of Mitt Romney). Though Mr. Romney should note that Mormonism in Politics is No. 11.
“The narratives of both political parties are becoming further and further removed from the actual concerns of the American voters,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of GLM, “This is happening because they focus on smaller and smaller segments of voting population, writing off states, demographic segments, and entire geographic regions in the process.”
Highlights from the analysis include:
The top priority is the Current US Economy (1)
Responsibility for the Current US Economy is assigned to Obama (1)
Responsibility for Great Recession is assigned to Bush (7)
The name Obamacare is favored over the Affordable Healthcare Act by a 25:1 margin (3, 42)
The hot button top Illegal Aliens is relegated to the No. 21 position
The Affordable Healthcare Act [is recognized] as a Middle-class tax (25)
Bain Capital is pushed into the background at No. 27
The recent Supreme Court Affordable Healthcare Act ruling and Chief Justice John Roberts appears at a modest No. 32 just below Hydraulic Fracturing (31).
The issues of the The 1% registers at No. 36, Super Pacs at No.37,and Teachers Unions at No.38.
The Top Political Buzzwords follow:
Current US Economy (with Obama Ownership)
The American Dream Still alive
Disappointment in Obama Administration
Bush Responsible for Great Recession
The Iraq War
Wall Street Bailout
Mormonism in Politics
Rise of China
US Debt Crisis
Middle Class Whites
Identifying opponents as Haters (or -phobic)
Transparency in Government
Excited about Presidential Election
Not Excited about Presidential Election
The Euro Crisis affecting US
Politics of Fear
Middle-class tax (Affordable Care Act)
Wall Street Occupy Movement
Pregnancy Reduction and sex selective abortion
John Roberts Healthcare
George Bush Responsible for US Economy
Obama responsible for Great Recession
Affordabe Healthcare Act
Bush Tax Cuts Affecting Middle Class
Decline US Manufacturing
Angry White Males
War Against Women
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 context as an Iraq War strategy, it inspired a set of emotions in many people far beyond the norm.
The PQI tracks the frequency of words and phrases in global print and electronic media on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere, Twitter and other social media outlets, as well as accessing proprietary databases. The PQI is a weighted index that factors in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity. Because PQI is based on the national discourse, it provides a real-time, accurate picture of what the public is saying about any topic, at any point in time.
Obesogenic, Derecho (and gender-neutral ‘hen’) take on Apocalypse, Kate and Debt
Number of Words in the English Language: 1,016,672 (July 6 estimate)
AUSTIN, Texas July 10 – Trending 2012 Update: Obesogenic, Derecho (and the gender neutral ‘hen’) are taking on the Mayan Apocalypse, Kate, and Debt as candidates for the Top Word of the Year according to a mid-year update by the Global Language Monitor. Each year, GLM produces the top trending words for the following year just before the new year begins. In 2011, it announced 12 possible candidates; mid-way through the year the three new terms have been added to the list.
Obesogenic — An environment that tends to encourage obesity. Lately it has been used to describe television advertisement that promote sugary and high-calorie snacks to kids.
Derecho — A ‘land hurricane,’ a sudden storm with extremely strong one-directional winds, such as occurred in the Eastern states earlier this month.
Hen — The Swedish attempt to create a gender-neutral pronoun to replace him or her or combinations therefore: hen.
“The new words are taken from an intensifying debate on obesity as a major societal health crisis, a ‘land Hurricane’ that some link to global warming. and a move sometimes viewed as political correctness to end gender distinction among pronouns,” said Paul JJ Payack, the president and chief word analyst of the Global Language Monitor. “At 2012’s mid-point, there has been considerable movement among the top trending words, and that trend will no doubt continue as it has during the entire life of our 1400-year old language.”
The words are culled from throughout the English-speaking world, which now numbers more than 1.83 billion speakers (January 2012 estimate).
The Trending Top Words of 2012 in revised order:
Rank/ Previous Rank/ Word / Comments
1. China (3) — Middle Kingdom – There is little indication that China’s continuing economic surge will fade from the global media spotlight –or abate.
2. Europe (12) — United, breaking apart, saving the Euro, abandoning the Euro, with the UK again as an ‘interested onlooker’. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
3. The Election (6) — No Obama-mania this time around, more of an Obama-ennui for the November 6 elections.
4. Kate (2) — There are seven billion humans on the planet but sometimes it seems that it’s all about Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton in terms of fashion, celebrity, and the royal line. (And most definitely not Katie, the future ex-Mrs. Tom Cruise.)
5. Deficit (7) — Looks like deficit-spending will plague Western democracies for at least the next decade.
6. Global Warming (10)— The earth has been warming since New York was covered under a mountain of ice; what makes 2012 any different?
7. Derecho (New) — A ‘land hurricane,’ a sudden storm with extremely strong one-directional winds, such as occurred in the Eastern states earlier this month.
8. Olympiad (2) — The Greeks measured time by the four-year interval between the Games. Moderns measure it by medal counts, rights fees and billions of eyeballs.
9. CERN (9) — Neutrons traveling faster than light? The ‘God Particle’? The world ending in a mini-black hole? All these somehow revolve around CERN (The European Center for Nuclear Research). One CERN scientist calculated that the chance of a mini-Black Hole swallowing the Earth is less than 1 in 50,000,000. Somewhat comforting until you realize this is about ten times more likely than winning a national lottery.)
10. Rogue nukes (8)— Iran and North Korea will be the focus of attention here.
11. Near-Earth Asteroid (11) — Yet another year, another asteroid, another near-miss. (However, one does strike the Earth every one hundred million years or so.)
12. Arab Spring (13) — the successor term for ‘Arab Spring’, whatever that might be.
13. Bak’tun (4) — A cycle of 144,000 days in the Maya ‘Long Count’ Calendar. This bak’tun ends on December 21, 2012, also being called the Mayan Apocalypse. (Actually Maya ‘long-count’ calendars stretch hundreds of millions of years into the future, December 21st merely marks the beginning of a new cycle.)
14. Solar max (5)— The peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle; in 1854 solar storms melted telegraph wires; what’s in store for our all-pervasive electronic infrastructure?
15. Hen (New) — The Swedish attempt to create a gender-neutral pronoun to replace him or her or combinations thereof: hen.
16. Obesogenic (New) — An environment that tends to encourage obesity. Lately it has been used to describe television advertisement that promote sugary and high-calorie snacks to kids.
The Top Words for 2011: ‘Occupy’ was the Top Word, ‘Arab Spring’ the Top Phrase and ‘Steve Jobs’ the Top Name of 2011 in its twelfth annual global survey of the English language.
GLM employs its NarrativeTracker technologies for global Internet and social media analysis. NarrativeTracker is based on global discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture about any topic, at any point in time.
NarrativeTracker analyzes the Internet, blogosphere, the top 250,000 print and electronic global media, as well as new social media sources as they emerge.
Obama’s “Private Sector doing just fine” now an Internet Meme
Comparisons to Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” Proliferate
Measures Level II the five level-Internet-Meme Intensity Index (IMII)
Austin, Texas, June 9-11, 2012. The Internet Meme that ignited when President Obama pronounced “The private sector is doing just fine,” at his Friday news conference is now at Level II on the Global Language Monitor’s five-level InternetMeme Intensity Index (IMII). One proliferating image conflates George W. Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ photo with Obama’s face intruding onto the scene. Though this montage has been in circulation for some time, it was given new life from the president’s remarks in his June 8 news conference.
Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ I-meme is one of the earliest political memes ever recorded, though the president, himself, never actually uttered those words on May 1, 2003. GLM receives frequent queries, even from the news media, asking when and where those words were recorded.
Bush delivered his prepared text focusing on ‘end of major combat operations’ from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln some thirty miles off the coast of San Diego. In the background, was the typical banner that is arrayed on ships returning from combat operations: Mission Accomplished.
In the analysis, GLM found that Obama cross-referenced with “mission accomplished” citations, surpass those related to Bush by a 9:7 margin.
“Internet Memes can spread quickly or build slowly. The ‘Doing Just Fine’ meme is in a position to build through the November elections, depending, of course, on the ability of the Obama team to deflate it, and the Romney’s team to encourage its propagation,” said Paul JJ Payack, GLM’s president and chief word analyst.
“However, one thing is certain, once a meme ‘ignites,’ it follows its own rules and it future path is not always easy to predict.”
The life cycle of an I-Meme typically follows four stages: 1) Ignition, 2) Verification, 3) Launch, and 4) Propagation.
The last I-Meme crossing the threshold for measurement was the ‘Jolie Leg’ meme ignited during the Academy Award ceremonies last Spring.
Since its ignition, the ‘Doing Just Fine’ meme climbed to Level 2 (out of 5) on the GLM Internet Meme Intensity Index (IMII). GLM will continue to monitor the I-meme as it propagates and evolves.
GLM used NarrativeTracker 2.0 for this analysis. NT2.0 is based on global discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture of what the public is saying about any topic, at any point in time. NarrativeTracker analyzes the Internet, blogosphere, the top 200,000 print and electronic global media, as well as new media sources, as they emerge.
About Global Language Monitor
Austin-based Global Language Monitor is the pioneer in web-based media analytics. Founded in Silicon Valley, GLM collectively documents, analyzes and tracks trends in language usage worldwide, with a particular emphasis upon the English language.
President Obama’s State of the Union Address earlier this week provided the Global Language Monitor the opportunity to analyze the changing Obama Narrative since he rose to the national prominence some five years ago. GLM found three distinct narratives with the communication styles supporting each narrative forming arcs of their own, characterized by their specific word choices, styles of delivery, rhetoric, and diction.
Obama 1.0 Narrative
We had Obama 1.0 whose narrative was that of soaring rhetoric, of hope and inclusiveness, and meeting ourselves in the future.
This was the “Yes, We Can!” presidential hopeful who would lead us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, harness Iran, close down Git-mo, bring peace to the Holy Land and then get elected to the presidency. This was the time of short declarative sentences or finely honed sentences that would never end, but who cared? This was the un-Bush and proud to say it. This was yet another ‘New Order for the Ages’”.
Obama 1.0 Frequent Word Choices: Americans, Change, Hope, Dreams, Unity
Then the Bush Iraq war policies were kept in place (or even expanded), Guantanamo remained (and still remains) open. This transformation occurred as the hopes and dreams that Obama represented collided with a very real political reality, of war and terrorism, of K-Street operatives, and healthcare plans that had to be passed it in order to know what was in them.
This was the era when the top political buzzwords included ‘anger and rage’, the residue remaining from the (still-ongoing both then and now) global economic restructuring. GLM tested out the new meme and found that what had been characterized as ‘anger and rage’ was actually better represented as ‘frustration and disappointment’.
Obama 2.0 Narrative
The Obama 2.0 Narrative that emerged from the bitter and prolonged healthcare battle, where the behind the scenes wheeling-and-dealing seemed to equal (or even surpass) the worst in memory. Obama 2.0 was now viewed as an ‘aloof’ president who presided over the decision to ‘surge’ in Afghanistan, expanded Bush’s drone warfare, culminating in the president’s handling of the Gulf oil spill and the nationwide speech he then delivered.
Obama’s speech was considered a turning point by many supporters who longed for a leader who would demonstrate how an engaged president would quickly and effectively reach out to those in dire need during such an event (the direct opposite of the Bush response to Katrina). This was to prove not be the case – and the ‘Spill-Cam’ made it all the worse as the oil spouted forth, 24 x 7, for weeks on end.
The voters delivered their verdict on Obama 2.0 in early November 2010, where Obama’s party was pommelled by historic proportions.
When President Obama delivered his third and possibly final State of the Union address, he used language that seemed to introduce yet another public persona. This would be his third since his emergence into the spotlight in 2007.
Judging from the language used during his recent State of the Union address, the Obama 3.0 Narrative will be very much like those of George W. Bush, with equal portions of the second term Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and even a sprinkling of JFK. The Obama 3.0 Narrative’s word choices are only remotely attached to those of Ted Kennedy (and even Al Gore). Those of Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter were definitely eschewed.
Obama 3.0’s Narrative, according to his word choices and focus was on “American Values,” even citing “America as the indispensable nation” (Madeline Albright’s phrasing) apparently an updated reference to ‘American exceptionalism’, a phrase normally verboten to the American Left, since it can represent cultural imperialism and American political hegemony.
The president also emphasized phrases and buzzwords that are generally considered to skew right:
Mentioned America and Americans nearly fifty times (vs. 11 times in his Inaugural Address)
Defining issue was reclaiming American values.
Offered unvarnished praise for the military
Praised increased oil and oil production.
Preaching fiscal and individual responsibility
Highlighted “More feet on the border than ever before”
Finally, the use of negative words and phrases nearly surpassing that of positive words phrases in the State of the Union address.
Obama Narrative 3.0 is strikingly different than that of his campaign and early administration.
In some ways this could be the Left’s worst nightmare: a potentially transformative president, now turning into a Bill Clinton/Ronald Reagan hybrid.
In other ways this could be the Right’s worst nightmare: Obama as the 1996 Bill Clinton, adjusting to his Mid-term ‘thumpin’ and rushing to the center to win a second term.
GLM used NarrativeTracker Technology in this study. NarrativeTracker is based on the global discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture of what any audience is saying about any topic, at any point in time. NarrativeTracker analyzes the Internet, the top global print and electronic media, as well as new media sources as they emerge.
Paul JJ Payack is the president of Global Language Monitor.
Global Language Monitor’s Top Words of 2012 projections from current word trends
AUSTIN, Texas December 26, 2011 – Trending 2012: Multiple End-of-World scenarios, Kate, China, CERN, the Olympics, The US Elections will dominate word creation and usage in the English language in 2012.
This is according to current word trends in global English being tracked by the Global Language Monitor. Last month, Austin, Texas-based Global Language Monitor had announced that ‘Occupy’ was the Top Word, ‘Arab Spring’ the Top Phrase and ‘Steve Jobs’ the Top Name of 2011 in its twelfth annual global survey of the English language.
The words are culled from throughout the English-speaking world, which now numbers more than 1.83 billion speakers (January 2012 estimate). . The Projected Top Words of 2012 , 1. Kate — There are seven billion humans on the planet but sometimes it seems that it’s all about Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton in terms of fashion, celebrity, and the royal line. . 2. Olympiad — The Greeks measured time by the four-year interval between the Games. Moderns measure it by medal counts, rights fees and billions of eyeballs. .. 3. Middle Kingdom – There is little indication that China’s continuing economic surge will fade from the global media spotlight –or abate. . 4. Bak’tun — A cycle of 144,000 days in the Maya ‘Long Count’ Calendar. This bak’tun ends on December 21, 2012, also being called the Mayan Apocalypse. (Actually Maya ‘long-count’ calendars stretch hundreds of millions of years into the future, December 21st merely marks the beginning of a new cycle.) . 5. Solar max — The peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle; in 1854 solar storms melted telegraph wires; what’s in store for our all-pervasive electronic infrastructure? . 6. The Election — No Obama-mania this time around, more of an Obama-ennui for the November 6 elections. . 8. Rogue nukes — Iran and North Korea will be the focus of attention here. . 9. CERN — Neutrons traveling faster than light? The ‘God Particle’? The world ending in a mini-black hole? All these somehow revolve around CERN (The European Center for Nuclear Research). One CERN scientist calculated that the chance of a mini-Black Hole swallowing the Earth is less than 1 in 50,000,000. Somewhat comforting until you realize this is about ten times more likely than winning a national lottery.) . 10. Global Warming — The earth has been warming since New York was covered under a mountain of ice; what makes 2012 any different? . 11. Near-Earth Asteroid — Yet another year, another asteroid, another near-miss. (However, one does strike the Earth every one hundred million years or so.) .
GLM employs its NarrativeTracker technologies for global Internet and social media analysis. NarrativeTracker is based on global discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture about any topic, at any point in time.
NarrativeTracker analyzes the Internet, blogosphere, the top 75,000 print and electronic global media, as well as new social media sources as they emerge.
“The year 2012 looks to be a vibrant year for the English language with word creation again driven by events both scheduled and unanticipated. Typically there is an ‘end-of-the-world’ scenario every few years that impacts the English language. This year we will see no fewer than three, including the Maya Apocalypse and the Solar Max,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of GLM.
”Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, will compete with the London Olympics, the economic surge of China, various activities involving the CERN atom smasher, and the US presidential election for Top Word honors, though we always allow for word creation generated from unexpected events such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or the Japanese ‘triple disaster’ of 2011.”
Rank / Word / Comments
7. Deficit — Looks like deficit-spending will plague Western democracies for at least the next decade.
12. Europe — United, breaking apart, saving the Euro, abandoning the Euro, with the UK again as an ‘interested onlooker’. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Bonus Phrase: The successor term for ‘Arab Spring’, whatever that might be.
D) A lowly scrap of paper that may decide who will be the next leader of the free world?
All four answers are correct. Chad is also the name of a couple of major league baseball players and one half of a British pop-singing duo from the ’60s.
But if you guessed “D,” you are informed enough to understand the vote counting process in Florida.
Politicians are tossing the term “chad” around as if everyone were familiar with the word. Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore’s campaign adviser, George Mitchell, is among them.
“You can run those machine ballots through five times and you’ll get five different totals because the chads fall off with each count,” he said, explaining on “Fox News Sunday” the reason he believes ballots in Florida should be recounted by hand.
But Mitchell’s use of “chads” betrayed his own lack of familiarity with the word. “Chad is its own plural,” said Paul J.J. Payack, president and CEO of yourdictionary.com, which is based in California.
The Web site www.yourdictionary.com defines the word as follows:
1. The confetti-like scrap punched out of cards or paper tape (also “chaff,” “computer confetti” or “keypunch droppings”).
2. The perforated strips on the edge of paper for sprocket feed printers after they have been separated from the printed portion (also “perf,” “perfory,” or “snaf”).
Etymology: Possibly from the last name of the inventor of the Chadless cardpunch, which cut U-shapes in punch cards, rather than open circles or rectangles. (The U’s formed holes when folded back.)
“Chad” would then be a back-formation from “Chadless” misunderstood: If the Chadless keypunches don’t produce it, other keypunches must produce “chad.”
The word appears to have entered the national lexicon in the late 1940s, around the time people began to refer to “bug” as a computer glitch after a researcher blamed a moth among a group of vacuum tubes for affecting ENIAC, the primitive computer powered by thousands of such tubes, said Payack. That was also about the time when IBM began using punch cards that warned users not to fold, spindle or mutilate.
In Florida, vote-counters may have wished for a “chadometer” to measure whether a bit of chad is sufficiently dislodged to qualify it as “dangling.”
When the hand recount began in Palm Beach County, the canvassing board there said it would count a vote if any of the corners of the chad were punched.
The board then decided that they would instead use the “sunlight test” — if they could see sun through an indentation, it would count.
About a quarter of the way through the counting, however, a board member determined that the light test was flawed and told the other members to go back to the first test.
According to county spokesman Bob Nichols, there are five types of chad.
Ones that count:
• Hanging door — one corner hanging off
• Swinging door — two corners hanging off
• Tri-chad — three corners hanging off
Chads that don’t count:
• Pregnant — bulges, but not punched through
• Dimple — simple indentation
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.]