Proof of Literary Greatness?

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).



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Palinpalooza: GLM analysis for Huffington Post

Sarah Palin’s Emails Written At 8th Grade Level — Better Than Some CEOs

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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.

“I’m a centrist Democrat, and would have loved to support my hunch that Ms. Palin is illiterate,” said2tor Chief Executive Officer John Katzman.

“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.]




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Kate Middleton’s Social Media Star to Eclipse Princess Diana

Study also compares Michelle Obama with the Royals

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NarrativeTracker analysis of Internet, social and traditional media

AUSTIN, Texas. April 18, 2011. With less than two weeks left before the Royal Wedding on April 29th, Kate Middleton is already posting Diana-type numbers in terms of news worthiness and celebrity status on the Top Global Media sites as well as on the Internet and Social Media according to The Global Language Monitor. Previously GLM had found the soon-to-be Princess Catherine the Top Fashion Buzzword of the 2011 season, replacing the eccentric Lady Gaga.

The GLM study compared the citations of Kate Middleton with those of Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry, and Camilla Parker Bowles. Michelle Obama as First Lady of the United States was included as a relevant American comparison. For the Top Global Media, the citations were measured over the last three months as well as all the archives available.

“Kate Middleton is set to eclipse Princess Di as the media star of the Royal Family,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor. “In fact, Kate could surpass all Internet, Social Media, and Global Print and Electronic Media citations by the time the Royal Wedding-related stories are compiled.”

Two weeks before the Royal Wedding, Middleton’s Internet and Social Media citations, surpass all members of the Royal Family. Prince William comes in as a close second followed by Princess Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997.

For Internet news citations, Middleton follows only Prince William and Prince Charles. For comparison, First Lady Michelle Obama, since she first came to notice in 2004, would rank No. 3 in Internet and Social Media citations, just ahead of Princess Diana and would rank No 4, again slightly ahead of Princess Diana in Internet news.

In the traditional Global Print and Electronic Media, Prince William and his bride-to-be, both double references to Queen Elizabeth and quadruple those to Prince Charles who would also follow Michelle Obama.

Note: Princess Di is cited in hundred of thousands of news stories even though she died before Google, social media, and smartphones existed. Even without the current media environment where the Internet, social media and the traditional media feed upon themselves as some sort cyber echo chamber, the study demonstrates the enduring legacy of Princess — some fourteen years after her death.

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 social media sources (such as Twitter).

Media for detailed statistics, or call 1.512.815.8836.



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Top Words of 2011, Yes 2011

AUSTIN, Texas December 8, 2010 (Updated) – The Global Language Monitor has announced the Top Words of 2011, yes 2011.

“Typically, we gather our top words throughout the year and rank them according to the number of citations, the size and depth of their linguistic footprint and momentum.  To project possible top words for 2011, we analyzed the categories that we monitor and then choose words from each representative of various word trends,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of GLM. “Over the last ten years, we’ve frequently been asked the question, so this year we are providing our projections.”

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The words are culled from throughout the English-speaking world, which now numbers more than 1.58 billion speakers.

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Projected Top Words of 2011 Rank / Word / Comments

  1. Twenty-Eleven – The English-speaking world has finally agreed on a common designation for the year:  Twenty-eleven far outstrips ‘two thousand eleven’ in the spoken language.  This is welcome relief from the decade-long confusion over how to pronounce 2001, 2001, 2003, etc.
  2. Obama-mess – David Letterman’s neologism for 2010 also works for 2011.  This word is neutral.  If Obama regain his magic, he escaped his Obama-mess; if his rating sinks further he continues to be engulfed by it.
  3. Great Recession – Even the best case scenario has the economy digging out of this hole for the foreseeable future,
  4. Palinism – Because the media needs an heir to Bushisms and Sarah Palin is the candidate of choice here.
  5. TwitFlocker – Can’t say what the name of the next Twitter or Facebook will be, so we’ll use TwitFlocker as the place holder.  (What is TwitFlocker?  Join the Discussion Here.)
  6. 3.0 – 2.0 has settled into the vocabulary in a thousand differing forms — Obama 2.0, Web 2.0, Lindsey Lohan 2.0, so we project 3.0 being used to ‘one-up’ the 2.0 trend.
  7. 9/11 – Next September is the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on US soil, so there is sure to be a great resurgence in use of the phrase.
  8. Climate Change (or global warming) – Both of these phrases have been in the Top Ten for  the last decade, so we see no reason the English-speaking public will abandon either or both of the phrases.
  9. China/Chinese – The emergence of China is the Top Story of the Decade and there is little indication that is emergence on the world stage will continue in the media.
  10. Hobbit and/or Parseltongue – The blockbuster movies of 2011 will be sure to include Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 and the Hobbit (though the Hobbit premiers on Dec. 31) are sure to spin out some word or phrase that will remain memorable to the Earthly-audience.

For methodology, see Top Words of 2010 announcement.



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Top Words of 2010

Spillcam is the Top Word, Anger and Rage the Top Phrase

and Chinese Leader Hu Jintao the Top Name

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AUSTIN, Texas November 27, 2010 (Updated) – The Global Language Monitor has announced that Spillcam is the Top Word, Anger and Rage the Top Phrase and Chinese Leader Hu Jintao the Top Name of 2010 in its annual global survey of the English language.  Spillcam was followed by Vuvuzela, the Narrative, Refudiate, and Guido.  Deficit, Snowmageddon, 3-D, Shellacking and Simplexity rounded out the Top 10.

“Our top words this year come from an environmental disaster, the World Cup, political malapropisms, new senses to ancient words, a booming economic colossus, and a heroic rescue that captivated the world for days on end.  This is fitting for a relentlessly growing global language that is being taken up by thousands of new speakers each and every day,” said Paul JJ Payack, President of The Global Language Monitor.

The words are culled from throughout the English-speaking world, which now numbers more than 1.58 billion speakers.

Methodology: The Global Language Monitor’s WOTY was conceived in 1999 as a way to create a cultural record of the year as reflected in the world’s current global language, English.  Previous efforts were decided by small groups of academics or lexicographers; our idea was to reflect the words used by the world’s 1.5 billion English Speakers.

Accordingly, GLM monitors million of web pages on the Internet, Blogosphere, and social media in addition to over 80,000 print and electronic media sites.  In this way we search for words that are the most relevant to various aspects of culture, such as world events (the rise of China, the South Asian Tsunami), politics (the election of Obama to the US Presidency), prominent deaths (Pope John Paul II, Michael Jackson), war and terror (Iraq, Afghanistan and the  Terrorist Attacks on the US and London), film (Jai Ho!, Brokeback), sports (Beijing Olympics, South African World Cup), and the like. We then use our analytical engine to determine the number of citations for the words, their prominence, how quickly they are rising or falling in use, and the geographic breadth and depth (various forms of publication) of their use.

To immediately download an in-depth presentation of GLM’s algorithmic-based methodology, fill out the form on the upper left corner of this page.

To listen to “What’s My Word,” a game show developed by Austin’s NPR flagship station, KUT,to help review the top words for 2010, click here.

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For the Top Words of the Decade (2000-2009), go here.

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The Top Words of 2010

Rank / Word / Comments


1.  Spillcam — The BP Spillcam instantly beamed the immensity of the Gulf Spill around the world to the dismay of environmentalists, BP’s PR staff and the President.

2.  Vuvuzela — Brightly colored plastic horns that first came to prominence at the South African World Cup.

3.  The Narrative – Though used at least since The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in 1845,  ‘The Narrative’ has recently been gaining traction in the political arena, virtually replacing the need for a party’s platform.  (Cf. to ‘truthily’.)

4.  Refudiate — Conflation of “refute” and “repudiate” (un)officially coined by Sarah Palin.

5.   Guido and Guidette — Hey! All things Jersey are hot, capish? (Actually, capisci in standard Italian.)

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Listen to Tracking 2010’s Most-Used Words, Names And Phrases

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6.   Deficit – A growing and possibly intractable problem for the economies of most of the developed world.

7.  Snowmagedden (and ‘Snowpocalypse’) — Portmanteau words linking ‘snow’ with ‘apocalypse’ and  ‘armageddon’, used to describe the record snowfalls in the US East Coast and Northern Europe last winter.

8.  3-D — Three-dimensional (as in movies) is buffo box office this year, but 3-D is being used in new ways generally describing ‘robustness’ in products (such as toothpaste).

9.  Shellacking – President Obama’s description of the ‘old-fashioned thumpin’ in George W. Bush’s words, that Democrats received in the 2010 US Mid-term elections.

10.  Simplexity – The paradox of simplifying complex ideas in order to make them easier to understand, the process of which only adds to their complexity.

Also Noted: (Spoken Only) Twenty-ten: Finally, a common way to refer to the year; Obamacare (noted as one of the Top Political Buzzwords).

The Top Phrases of 2010

Rank / Phrase / Comments


1.  Anger and Rage – Characterizations of the US electorate by the pundits, though closer analyses has revealed more frustration and disappointment.  Also witnessed in France, Spain and Greece.

2.  Climate Change – (and Global Warming) No. 1 Phrase for the first decade of the 21st century; starts out second decade at No. 2.

3.  The Great Recession – The media term frequently used to describe the on-going global economic restructuring.

4.  Teachable Moment – Turning any undesirable outcome into a positive opportunity by using it as an object lesson. Unfortunately, there were a plethora of teachable moments in the first year of the new decade.

5.  Tea Party — An emerging political movement in the US that has upset the balance of power in the US Congress.

6.  Ambush Marketing – Cashing in at an event by taking on the appearance of a sponsor of the event.  Most obviously displayed at the Vancouver Winter Olympics and South Africa’s World Cup 2010.

7.  Lady Gaga — Gaga, herself, became a buzzword in the global entertainment industry in 2010.

8.  Man Up – This election cycle’s signature retort from the women running for office to their male opponents.

9.  Pass the bill to be able to see what’s in it — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s now infamous quip underlying the complexity of the Healthcare Reform legislation.

10.  Obamamania — Notable only in it fall from grace; Obamamania now ranks at the bottom of this year’s political buzzwords.

Also Noted — Don’t Touch My Junk: One reaction to the TSA new search policies.

The Top Names of 2009

Rank / Name / Comments


1.  Hu – President Hu Jintao, paramount leader of China.  Rise of China was the No. 1 Story of the 1st decade of the 21st century; now Hu begins the second decade in the top spot.

2.  IPad – With over eight million sold in a matter of months, the IPad is now a name on everybody’s lips.  (Sorry, Steve Jobs, the IPads tests better than you.)

3.  Barack Obama — President of the United States has had a tough sophomore year.

4.  Chilean Coal Miners – The ordeal and heroic rescue is perhaps the top inspirational story of the year.

5.  Eyjafjallajoekull – Does a name that no one can pronounce deserve a spot on a top name’s list?

6.  Nancy Pelosi – Speaker of the US House of Representatives, presided over the passing of the healthcare reform bill and the decimation of her party in the Mid-term elections.

7.  Sarkozy – Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa, the current French president, is attempting to re-define what it means to be citizen of the Republic.

8.  Tea Party – Leaderless movement in US political circles, the center of much of the angst in the electorate.

9.  Jersey Shore – Not quite the Cote d’Azure, The Shore, as the locals call it, is now known as a breeding ground for guidos and guidettes.

10.  David Cameron and Nick Clegg – The leaders of the UK’s new coalition government.

Also Noted — Kate Middleton, recently engaged to Prince William.

Top Words of the Decade:

The Top Words of the Decade were Global Warming, 9/11, and Obama outdistance Bailout, Evacuee, and Derivative; Google, Surge, Chinglish, and Tsunami followed.

Climate Change  was top phrase; Heroes was top name.

Previous Words of the Year include:

2009:

Top Words:  No. 1 Twitter, No. 2 Obama-, No. 3 H1N1

Top Phrases: No. 1 King of Pop, No. 2 Obama-mania, No. 3 Climate Change

Top Names:  No. 1 Obama, No. 2 Michael Jackson, No. 3 Mobama

2008:

Top Words: No. 1 Change, No. 2 Bailout, No. 3 Obama-mania

Top Phrases:  No. 1 Financial Tsunami, No. 2 Global Warming, No. 3 “Yes, We Can!”

Top Names:  No. 1 Barack Obama, No. 2 George W. Bush, No.3 Michael Phelps

 

2007:

Top Words:  No. 1 Hybrid (representing all things green),  No. 2: Surge

Top Phrase: Climate Change

Top Name: Al Gore

2006:

Top Word: Sustainable

Top Phrase: Stay the Course

Top Name: Dafur

2005:

Top Words:  No. 1, Refugee No. 2: Tsunami No. 3: Katrina

Top Phrase: Outside the Mainstream

Top Name: (acts of ) God


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Listen to Top Words 2010 and how they reflect the year

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2004:

Top Word: Incivility (for inCivil War)

Top Phrase: Red States/Blue States No. 2: Rush to War

Top Name: Dubya/Rove

2003:

Top Word: Embedded

Top Phrase:  Shock and Awe,  No. 2: Rush to War

Top Name: Saddam Hussein,  No. 2 Dubya

2002:

Top Word: Misunderestimate

Top Phrase:  Threat Fatigue

Top Name: W (Dubya)

2001:

Top Word: Ground Zero

Top Phrase: ‘Lets Roll’

Top Name:  The Heros

2000:

Top Word:  Chad

Top Phrase:  Dot.com

Top Name: W (Dubya)



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The Internet’s Fury Scorned

Obama Oval Office speech analysis provokes unprecedented response


Austin, Texas, July 2, 2010.  The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed a great many terrible, sad and historical events, with a few, unfortunately fleeting moments of great joy sprinkled between the dirges.  We have done our best to analyze the impact of these events on the global print and electronic media as well as on the Internet, throughout the blogosphere, and now the emerging social media.

After analyzing political speeches for a decade now, as well as all 55 Presidential Inaugural Addresses and transcripts of historical interest (including Washington’s Farewell Address, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, FDR’s ‘Live in Infamy’ radio address, Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech) you would think that we had seen and heard everything by now.

However, it wasn’t until our analysis of the President’s Gulf Spill Oval Office address, that we experienced the full force of the Internet’s fury scorned.

And this for an analysis that we considered basically non-newsworthy.

President Obama had given yet another address to the nation.  GLM used the same standardized, widely available, language tools that we used to name Obama’s Grant Park  “Yes, we can!” victory address as one that ranked with the greatest of presidential orations.  Now these same standardized, time-tested tools are being conveniently criticized as of questionable repute.

We were told that our analysis was either ‘bashing Obama’ or ‘excusing Obama’. At the same time, we were either ‘insulting the people’ or ‘insulting the President’. Finally, it was suggested that we were rather transparently calling for the President to ‘dumb down the rhetoric’ so that one and all might understand  the superior intelligence of ‘his highness’.  Whoa!

Apparently, many readers never got over the headline, missing the actual analysis and what the numbers told us about the speech. Our concern was that our initial headline, Obama Oil Spill Speech Echoes Elite, Aloof Ethos might be considered demeaning to the President.  Wrong.  It was considered demeaning to everyone on the Left and the Right.

For general information on the readability tests used by GLM, click here.

For scientific literature about readability tests, enter Flesch or readability into the ERIC database.

We were surprised to learn that offense was, apparently,  taken in equal proportions by both the Right (Language Expert: If You Didn’t Like Obama’s Oil Spill Speech, It’s Probably Because You’re Stupid) and the Left (Obama Oil Spill Speech Criticized By CNN’s Language Analyst For Not Being Moronic Enough) of the political spectrum.   Nevertheless, we were quite amused by The ColbertReport’s send-up of our (and CNN’s) report, which somehow struck a middle chord.

It was also enlightening to see a significant proportion of this criticism to be ad hominem attacks, focusing on ourselves rather than our analysis.  (Read FAQ about GLM and Paul JJ Payack here.)

This past December, we encountered fierce criticism from the Chinese government dailies because  we named ‘The Rise of China” as the No. 1 news story of the decade.  (You can follow the narrative arc of this controversy here. )  But the criticism that accompanied the Obama Gulf Spill speech, was a good bit nastier, indeed.

Our analyses of the three preceding US Presidential elections were praised from many quarters from the New York Times to Nicholas Kristof to NPR to the worldwide media.  During the preceding ten years, few alleged political motivation, or denounced the standard language-measurement tools as inherently flawed. In fact, as long as readers basically agreed with the more predictable outcomes, there were few complaints.  Here were some of those results:  Ross Perot scored the lowest we’ve ever recorded, John F, Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were stars, both Bushes settled in the middle of the middle school years, and Obama’s ‘Yes, we can!’ speech had nearly equivalent numbers to Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream’ speech and Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’.   So far, so good.  We did have a few outliers, such as Sarah Palin achieving quite a high score during her debate with Joe Biden, which was duly noted by New York Magazine and quite easy to explain.

Here’s what we attempted to communicate:

1.  Obama’s speech, though deserving a ‘solid B’ did not live up to his past efforts.

2.  Obama’s most well-regarded speech came in a at 7.4 grade level.  This is not talking down to the American people.  This is communicating clear and concisely to his audience.  This is Obama at his best, communicating with a deft combination of vision, passion and rhetoric.

In fact, our headline for that effort read: Obama’s “Yes, We Can” Speech Ranked with “I have a Dream,” “Tear Down this Wall,” and JFK Inaugural. Rather high praise, indeed.

Our commentary read:

Obama’s “Yes, We Can” speech delivered Tuesday night in Chicago’s Grant Park ranked favorably in tone, tenor and rhetorical flourishes with memorable political addresses of the recent past including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s   “I have a Dream” speech, “Tear Down this Wall,” by Ronald  Reagan and John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address.

“As is appropriate for a forward-looking message of hope and reconciliation, words of change and hope, as well as future-related constructions dominated the address,” said Paul JJ Payack President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor.  “Evidently, Obama is at his best at connecting with people at the 7th to 8th grade range, communicating directly to his audience using simple yet powerful rhetorical devices, such as the repetition of the cadenced phrase ‘Yes, we can’, which built to a powerful conclusion.”

Well-regarded, indeed (and well-deserved).

3.   GLM and our predecessor site, yourDictionary.com have analyzed every presidential inaugural since that of George Washington.  The idea was, and continues to be, to look at the presidents’ words in the total historical context of the American presidency.

In 2001, we were quoted as saying,

Our goal was to spot trends that are all to easily overlooked in the political (and all too partisan) passions of the moment” [and continued that our] analysis included patterns of word usage choices, the use of such grammatical constructions as passive voice, the length of words and sentences, the number of paragraphs, and other parameters of language to gauge the content [including] the well-regarded Flesch-Kincaid Reading Scale.

4.  The use of Industry-standard language analytics.  The Fogg Index, the Flesch Test, the Flesch-Kinkaid Reading Scale, and many others, are used in all forms of publishing from technical manuals to ensuring proper comprehension levels for textbooks used for various ages and classes.  This has been true for more than fifty years.

The reason we choose to use the standard tests and analytical tools was a simple one:  to enable the same set of measurements over any period of time.  And also that these analyses could be replicated by scholars and historians and journalists the world over.

5.  We use our proprietary tool, the Predictive Quantities Indicator or PQI to measure media analytics, narrative tracking, and TrendTopper Media Buzz, as such we do not use the PQI for this task.

By the Way, here are a few historical precedents;

  • Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796 — 12.0.
  • Lincoln-Douglas debates, 1858 — Stephen Douglas’ seven speeches averaged a 12th-grade level 11.9; Lincoln’s averaged 11.2.
  • President Franklin Roosevelt’s declaration of war in December 1941 — 11.5.
  • Nixon-Kennedy Debates, 1960 — The first nationally televised debates:  Kennedy, 9.6 ; Nixon, 9.1.
  • Carter-Ford Debates, 1976 — Carter, 10.4; Ford, 11.0.
  • Carter-Reagan debate  — Carter, 12.0; Reagan, 10.7.
  • Reagan-Mondale debates — Reagan, 9.8;  Mondale, 8.7.
  • Dukakis-Bush debates of 1988 — Dukakis, 8.9; Bush, 6.7 grade.
  • Bush-Clinton-Perot debates of 1992 — Carter, 8.5, Bush, 6.5, Perot, 6.3.
  • Bush-Gore debate of 2000 — Bush, 7.1, Gore, 8.4.
  • Cheney-Lieberman, V.P. Debate — Lieberman, 9.9; Dick Cheney, 9.1.

And for good measure, Hamlet’s ‘To Be or Not to Be Soliloquy’, Shakespeare, c. 1600, comes in at 10.6.

Now Kathleen Parker has considerably upped the ante when applied readability statistics in her premise about Barack Obama as the first ‘feminine president’ ….

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Keep Presidential Speeches Smart

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Medialand

Trevor Butterworth, 06.22.10

Trevor Butterworth is the editor of stats.org, an affiliate of George Mason University that looks at how numbers are used in public policy and the media. He writes a weekly column for Forbes.

If the Gulf oil spill is a national tragedy, the arguments over President Obama’s response to it have descended into a national farce. When former law professors go looking for “ass to kick,” they end up looking like the eponymous hero of Kickass, a nerdy kid copying moves he’s seen in comic books. The difference is that the fictional Kickass was ennobled by failure, which, sadly, is not the kind of outcome open to the President of the United States in matters of national importance.

Obama’s mistake was to respond to the Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots of punditry. The country didn’t want Spock at the helm during environmental armageddon, they protested; the situation demanded a theatrically-appropriate response–as if the presidency was the background music to the movie of our lives, rousing in adversity, compassionate in suffering, a boom box of linguistic effects.

If style is the image of character, you cannot go from the calmest, most judicious intellectual in the room to a Schwarzenegger character in leather trousers and expect to be perceived as authentic. This is why responding to his critics was the wrong thing to do. By following their lame advice, by trying to be someone he isn’t, Obama sounded bathetic.

All of this is an object lesson in how democracy isn’t helped by the media. Just as an analysis of the Katrina response shows that it was a complex systematic failure of government and not a simple fumble by George W. Bush and “heck of a job” Brownie, the Gulf oil spill is not really in the league of a car wreck caused by distracted texting. The very intractability of the problem demands openness, an admission of complexity and a detailed description of solutions that are being pursued. And yet, according to one manufacturer of conventional wisdom, the problem was not that Obama’s White House address on the spill was too simple or vague, it was that it wasn’t simple enough. As CNN reported:

“Obama’s speech may have gone over the heads of many in his audience, according to an analysis of the 18-minute talk released Wednesday by Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor. Tuesday night’s speech from the Oval Office of the White House was written to a 9.8 grade level, said Payack, who gave Obama a ‘solid B.’ His Austin, Texas-based company analyzes and catalogues trends in word usage and word choice and their impact on culture.”

The president’s 19.8 words per sentence apparently “added some difficulty for his target audience.” But 19.8 words is well within the breath of television’s cutthroat culture of political sound bites, which now stands at seven seconds. Indeed, as Elvin T. Lim notes in his brilliant historical and linguistic analysis of presidential rhetoric, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, the average presidential sentence in recent years (as defined by speeches) has ranged from 15 to 20 words, well within the assumed attention span of the presumptive television viewer.

But now, even this is apparently too difficult for most Americans to follow. It gets worse. Take the following sentence from the President’s speech, “That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge–a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy.” According to Payack, this is the kind of phrasing that makes the President seem “aloof and out of touch.” It’s too professorial, too academic and not “ordinary enough.” Perhaps the President should just have tweeted “I got smart folks fixin’ to fix the oil spill” and let everyone go back to their regular broadcast fare or communicating with each other in grunts and clicks.

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Top News Stories of the Decade

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Rise of China Tops Iraq War and 9/11 as Top Story of Decade

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Top News Stories of the Decade:

The Rise of China surpasses Iraq War and 9/11

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Austin, TX December 9, 2009 – In an exclusive analysis performed by the Global Language Monitor, the Rise of China has been determined to be the Top News Story of the Decade followed by the Iraq War, the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, the War on Terror, and the Death of Michael Jackson. Completing the Top Ten were the Election of Obama to US presidency, the Global Recession of 2008/2009, Hurricane Katrina, the War in Afghanistan, and the onset of the Financial Tsunami/Economic Meltdown. Rounding out the list were the Beijing Olympics, the South Asian Tsunami, the War against the Taliban, the Death of Pope John Paul II, and Osama bin-Laden eludes capture.

Chinese pundits saw GLM’s analysis “was partly aimed at trumpeting the so-called China threat.  The list is the latest sign of the US media’s change from China bashing to China flattery.”  Read how the story unfolded below.

The Original story in Beijing’s People’s Daily

The criticism from China Daily, the official government paper:  The Rise of the Dragon

The follow-up report from Wall Street Journal’s Beijing bureau

The Financial Times’ take on the debate

Chinese Economic Review:  The Hard Bigotry of Too-high Expectations

People’s Daily:  Chinese Ambassador to the UK summarizes China’s position

The methodology: The analysis factored in the number of citations over the course of the decade on the Internet, the blogosphere, including social media, as well as the top 50,000 print and electronic media sites.

“The rise of China to new economic heights has changed – and continues to challenge – the current international order,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor. “It is with little surprise that its ongoing transformation has topped all other news stories in a decade bespotted by war, economic catastrophe, and natural disasters.”

Read Ben MacIntyre it in the Sunday Times (London):  Words that define the Noughties

Rank/News Story/Comment

1. Rise of China – The biggest story of the decade, outdistancing the No. 2 Internet story by 400%.

2. Iraq War — The buildup, the invasion, the hunt for the WMDs, and the Surge were top in print and electronic media outlets.

3. 9/11 Terrorist Attacks – The 9/11 Terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, DC seemed to set the tone for the new decade.

4. War on Terror – President George W. Bush’s response to 9/11.

5. Death of Michael Jackson – A remarkably high ranking considering that MJ’s death occurred in the final year of the decade.

6. Election of Obama to US presidency – The rallying cries of ‘hope’ and ‘Yes, we can!’ resulting in the historic election of an African-American to the US presidency.

7. Global Recession of 2008/9 – The on-going world economic restructuring as opposed to the initial ‘economic meltdown’ or ‘financial tsunami’.

8. Hurricane Katrina — New Orleans was devastated when the levies collapsed; scenes of death and destruction shocked millions the world over.

9. War in Afghanistan – Now in its eighth year with an expansion into neighboring Pakistan.

10. Economic Meltdown/Financial Tsunami – The initial shock of witnessing some 25% of the world’s wealth melting away seemingly overnight.

11. Beijing Olympics – The formal launch of China onto the world stage.

12. South Asian Tsunami – The horror of 230,000 dead or missing, washed away in a matter of minutes was seared into the consciousness the global community.

13. War against the Taliban – Lands controlled by the Taliban served as a safe haven from which al Qaeda would launch its terrorist attacks.

14. Death of Pope John Paul II – The largest funeral in recent memory with some 2,000,000 pilgrims in attendance.

15. Osama bin-Laden eludes capture – Hesitation to attack Tora Bora in 2002 has led to the continuing manhunt.

This analysis was completed on December 1, 2009 using GLM’s Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI), the proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in the media and on the Internet, now including blogs and social media. The words are tracked in relation to frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets, factoring in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum and velocity.

The Global Language Monitor has recently named the Top Words of the Decade. They were Global Warming, 9/11, Obama, Bailout, Evacuee, and Derivative; Google, Surge, Chinglish, and Tsunami followed.“Climate Change” was top phrase; “Heroes” was top name.

About the Global Language Monitor

Austin-Texas-based Global Language Monitor analyzes and catalogues the latest trends in word usage and word choices, and their impact on the various aspects of culture, with a particular emphasis upon Global English.

English has become the first truly global language with some 1.58 billion speakers as a first, second or auxiliary language. Paul JJ Payack examines its impact on the world economy, culture and society in A Million Words and Counting (Citadel Press, New York, 2009).

The current estimate for the number of words in the English Language stands at 1,002,116.

For more information, call 1.925.367.7557, send email to info@LanguageMonitor.com, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.

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Top Words of 2009

Top Word of 2009: Twitter

Followed by Obama, H1N1, Stimulus, and Vampire

“King of Pop” is Top Phrase; “Obama” is top name

Austin, TX November 29, 2009 – The Global Language Monitor has announced that Twitter is the Top Word of 2009 in its annual global survey of the English language.  Twittered was followed by Obama, H1N1, Stimulus, and Vampire. The near-ubiquitous suffix, 2.0, was No. 6, with Deficit, Hadron the object of study of CERN’s new atom smasher, Healthcare, and Transparency rounded out the Top 10.

Read about it in the Guardian:  Twitter declared top word of 2009

WHY twitter is the most popular word of 2009 at the Huffington Post

CNET’s Don Reisinger on twitter

Mashable’s take: what else does social media have to conquer?

What it means that twitter is the 2009 Word of the Year (WeberShandwick)

The Poetry of Social Networks

“In a year dominated by world-shaking political events, a pandemic, the after effects of a financial tsunami and the death of a revered pop icon, the word Twitter stands above all the other words.  Twitter represents a new form of social interaction, where all communication is reduced to 140 characters,” said Paul JJ Payack, President of The Global Language Monitor.  “Being limited to strict formats did wonders for the sonnet and haiku.  One wonders where this highly impractical word-limit will lead as the future unfolds.”

For Top Words of the Decade, click here.

The Top Words are culled from throughout the English-speaking world, which now numbers more than 1.58 billion speakers.

The Top Words of 2009

Rank/Word/Comments

1.         Twitter — The ability to encapsulate human thought in 140 characters

2.         Obama — The word stem transforms into scores of new words like ObamaCare

3.         H1N1 — The formal (and politically correct) name for Swine Flu

4.         Stimulus — The $800 billion aid package meant to help mend the US economy

5.         Vampire — Vampires are very much en vogue, now the symbol of unrequited love

6.         2.0 — The 2.0 suffix is attached to the next generation of everything

7.         Deficit — Lessons from history are dire warnings here

8.         Hadron — Ephemeral particles subject to collision in the Large Hadron Collider

9.         Healthcare — The direction of which is the subject of intense debate in the US

10.        Transparency — Elusive goal for which many 21st c. governments are striving

11.        Outrage — In response to large bonuses handed out to ‘bailed-out’ companies

12.        Bonus — The incentive pay packages that came to symbolize greed and excess

13.        Unemployed — And underemployed amount to close to 20% of US workforce

14.        Foreclosure — Forced eviction for not keeping up with the mortgage payments

15.        Cartel — In Mexico, at the center of the battle over drug trafficking

The Top Phrases of 2009

Rank/Phrase/Comments

1.         King of Pop –Elvis was ‘The King;’ MJ had to settle for ‘King of Pop’

2.         Obama-mania — One of the scores of words from the Obama-word stem

3.         Climate Change — Considered politically neutral compared to global warming

4.         Swine Flu — Popular name for the illness caused by the H1N1 virus

5.         Too Large to Fail — Institutions that are deemed necessary for financial stability

6.         Cloud Computing — Using the Internet for a variety of computer services

7.         Public Option — The ability to buy health insurance from a government entity

8.         Jai Ho! — A Hindi shout of joy or accomplishment

9.         Mayan Calendar — Consists of various ‘cycles,’ one of which ends on 12/21/2012

10.       God Particle — The hadron, believed to hold the secrets of the Big Bang

The Top Names of 2009

Rank/Name/Comments

1.         Barack Obama — It was Obama’s year, though MJ nearly eclipsed in the end

2.         Michael Jackson — Eclipses Obama on internet though lags in traditional media

3.         Mobama — Mrs. Obama, sometimes as a fashion Icon

4.         Large Hadron Collider — The Trillion dollar ‘aton smasher’ buried outside Geneva

5.         Neda Agha Sultan — Iranian woman killed in the post-election demonstrations

6.         Nancy Pelosi –The Democratic Speaker of the US House

7.         M.  Ahmadinejad — The president of Iran, once again

8.         Hamid Karzai — The winner of Afghanistan’s disputed election

9.         Rahm Emmanuel — Bringing ‘Chicago-style politics’ to the Administration

10.       Sonia Sotomayor — The first Hispanic woman on the US Supreme Court

The analysis was completed in late November using GLM’s Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI), the proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in the media and on the Internet, now including blogs and social media. The words are tracked in relation to frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets, factoring in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum and velocity.

The Top Words of the Decade were Global Warming, 9/11, and Obama outdistance Bailout, Evacuee, and Derivative; Google, Surge, Chinglish, and Tsunami followed.  “Climate Change” was top phrase; “Heroes” was top name.

For Previous Words of the Year, go here.



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Top Word of 2009: Twitter


Followed by Obama, H1N1, Stimulus, and Vampire

“King of Pop” is Top Phrase; “Obama” is top name

Austin, TX November 29, 2009 – The Global Language Monitor has announced that Twitter is the Top Word of 2009 in its annual global survey of the English language.  Twittered was followed by Obama, H1N1, Stimulus, and Vampire. The near-ubiquitous suffix, 2.0, was No. 6, with Deficit, Hadron the object of study of CERN’s new atom smasher, Healthcare, and Transparency rounded out the Top 10.

“In a year dominated by world-shaking political events, a pandemic, the after effects of a financial tsunami and the death of a revered pop icon, the word Twitter stands above all the other words.  Twitter represents a new form of social interaction, where all communication is reduced to 140 characters,” said Paul JJ Payack, President of The Global Language Monitor.  “Being limited to strict formats did wonders for the sonnet and haiku.  One wonders where this highly impractical word-limit will lead as the future unfolds.”

Read about it in the Guardian:  Twitter declared top word of 2009

WHY twitter is the most popular word of 2009 at the Huffington Post

CNET’s Don Reisinger on twitter

Mashable’s take: what else does social media have to conquer?

What it means that twitter is the 2009 Word of the Year (WeberShandwick)

The Poetry of Social Networks

The Top Words are culled from throughout the English-speaking world, which now numbers more than 1.58 billion speakers.

The Top Words of 2009

Rank/Word/Comments

1.         Twitter — The ability to encapsulate human thought in 140 characters

2.         Obama — The word stem transforms into scores of new words like ObamaCare

3.         H1N1 — The formal (and politically correct) name for Swine Flu

4.         Stimulus — The $800 billion aid package meant to help mend the US economy

5.         Vampire — Vampires are very much en vogue, now the symbol of unrequited love

6.         2.0 — The 2.0 suffix is attached to the next generation of everything

7.         Deficit — Lessons from history are dire warnings here

8.         Hadron — Ephemeral particles subject to collision in the Large Hadron Collider

9.         Healthcare — The direction of which is the subject of intense debate in the US

10.        Transparency — Elusive goal for which many 21st c. governments are striving

11.        Outrage — In response to large bonuses handed out to ‘bailed-out’ companies

12.        Bonus — The incentive pay packages that came to symbolize greed and excess

13.        Unemployed — And underemployed amount to close to 20% of US workforce

14.        Foreclosure — Forced eviction for not keeping up with the mortgage payments

15.        Cartel — In Mexico, at the center of the battle over drug trafficking

The Top Phrases of 2009

Rank/Phrase/Comments

1.         King of Pop –Elvis was ‘The King;’ MJ had to settle for ‘King of Pop’

2.         Obama-mania — One of the scores of words from the Obama-word stem

3.         Climate Change — Considered politically neutral compared to global warming

4.         Swine Flu — Popular name for the illness caused by the H1N1 virus

5.         Too Large to Fail — Institutions that are deemed necessary for financial stability

6.         Cloud Computing — Using the Internet for a variety of computer services

7.         Public Option — The ability to buy health insurance from a government entity

8.         Jai Ho! — A Hindi shout of joy or accomplishment

9.         Mayan Calendar — Consists of various ‘cycles,’ one of which ends on 12/21/2012

10.       God Particle — The hadron, believed to hold the secrets of the Big Bang

The Top Names of 2009

Rank/Name/Comments

1.         Barack Obama — It was Obama’s year, though MJ nearly eclipsed in the end

2.         Michael Jackson — Eclipses Obama on internet though lags in traditional media

3.         Mobama — Mrs. Obama, sometimes as a fashion Icon

4.         Large Hadron Collider — The Trillion dollar ‘aton smasher’ buried outside Geneva

5.         Neda Agha Sultan — Iranian woman killed in the post-election demonstrations

6.         Nancy Pelosi –The Democratic Speaker of the US House

7.         M.  Ahmadinejad — The president of Iran, once again

8.         Hamid Karzai — The winner of Afghanistan’s disputed election

9.         Rahm Emmanuel — Bringing ‘Chicago-style politics’ to the Administration

10.       Sonia Sotomayor — The first Hispanic woman on the US Supreme Court

The analysis was completed in late November using GLM’s Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI), the proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in the media and on the Internet, now including blogs and social media. The words are tracked in relation to frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets, factoring in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum and velocity.

The Top Words of the Decade were Global Warming, 9/11, and Obama outdistance Bailout, Evacuee, and Derivative; Google, Surge, Chinglish, and Tsunami followed.  “Climate Change” was top phrase; “Heroes” was top name.

For Previous Words of the Year, go here.



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