Malarkey Vs. Adorkable: The Vice Presidential Debate

Two words can be used to distill the essence of  Thursday Night’s Vice Presidential Debate:  Malarkey Vs. Adorkable.

On the one hand you have Joe Biden in familiar territory talking, interrupting, spinning, smiling feverishly to help the Democrats regain control of the political narrative after the widely perceived misteps of the president in the first Presidential Debate; on the other you have Paul Ryan, the wunder wonk, attempting to demonstrate 1) that he is NOT Sarah Palin, and 2) that he is more than simply a policy wonk and has the attendant seriousness, intelligence and skill set necessary to sit a heartbeat away from the presidency.  Both succeeded in their appointed tasks.

Though Biden used the term ‘malarkey’ to describe Ryan’s debate performance, it was Biden who more closely typified the concept of  ‘malarkey’ (bluster).  Ryan did not stray too far from his policy wonk persona, but was fortunate that dorks, nerds and wonks are now in fashion.  Hence the term ‘adorkable’ for ‘adorable dork’.  In fact, The Global Language Monitor had named ‘adorkable’ as the Top Television Word of the Year just a month or so ago.

In terms of language usage, Biden used about 30% more passive voice than Ryan.  Many believe that the passive voice is used to shade the truth, opposed to simple declarative sentences.  Ryan and Biden both were relatively easy to understand according to the standardized algorithms coming in at 69.4 and 72.6 on the Reading Ease Scale.  As for Grade Level, Ryan came in at 6.6, while Biden scored a 6.1.  For comparison, Obama scored a 9.2 and Romney a 6.8 in their first debate.

(As a side note, Biden’s score (6.1)  was the lowest ever recorded in a debate, surpassing  Ross Perot’s previous low of 6.3).


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