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The Battle for the Top Word of the Year (#WOTY) …








The war of the words continues to rage

From the TimesRepublican

December 30, 2012

By WES BURNS – (wburns@timesrepublican.com)

Shakespeare once said: What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

I know that, technically, Juliet said it. But she isn’t real; plus, I like to picture Shakespeare as the kind of guy that would loudly recite his own writing, trudging about his house at night hurling empty bottles into the fire place and generally annoying the neighbors.

But Juliet/Shakespeare/Imaginary Alcoholic Shakespeare has a point. Just how important is a name? For that matter, how important is a word? Sure, we call that delicious brown spice “cinnamon” but would our world be inexorably different if we called it some gibberish word like “torpin” or “churdally” or “blomkamp?”

You know, it might be. I don’t think I could start off my day with a hearty bowl of Blomkamp Toast Crunch.

And Shakespeare is proven wrong by breakfast cereal, once again.

Sorry to tell you, Willie Shakes, but the word is important. Very important. In fact they pass that most important of litmus tests; words are worth fighting over.

Now, I’m not talking about some hoary old clich about going to war over words; nor am I talking about some Walter Houston-esque prospector claiming your choice of words indicates a scuffle is to commence, right after long-shotting a spittoon from across the bar.

I’m talking about that most blood thirsty and ruthless of all battles: The All-Austere Blue Blood English Language Throwdown! 2012 HD Remix edition!


To see the Top Words of 2012, go here.


In one corner we have the old guard dictionary powerhouse Merriam Webster. The premiere league lexicographers at Merriam-Webster (a place I imagine smells of wig powder and silent racism) have been telling us what words are actually words and what words are “gutter speak” for 500 years. I totally fact checked that statement, you can bring it up in conversation later, free of repercussion.

In the other corner we have The American Dialect Society, which I’m pretty sure is a cover group for some kind of James Bond villain. American Dialect Society? That sounds WAY too benign to be real; these guys are hiding a laser in a mountain somewhere.

And in the um THIRD corner we have the Global Language Monitor, which I assume is some kind of super computer.

All three of these fierce warriors of the word are fighting for the same prize: The title of Word of the Year.

You see, each of these venerable groups, plus Google, put out a list around this time of year where they pick a word they feel best describes the year as a whole. With such venerable institutions such as Merriam Webster and Global Language Bot 3000 you can imagine that the words succinctly sum up the year at large.

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2012? Socialism and Capitalism.

OK, so right out of the gate you guys are falling behind. You have two words for your “WORD of the year” entry and the two words you picked seem to have been randomly pulled out of a freshmen civics class. I’d imagine in a year full of natural and man-made disasters a lot of people didn’t really care about either, more so they just wanted their power back, or to not drown.

Alright, Merriam-Webster has only been at this since 2003 and I’m certain those tea-sippers look down upon the Internet with the same disdain they feel for what they still call the horseless carriage.

How about the American Dialect Society? They’ve been picking a “Word of the Year” since 1990 so they have to be well ready for action. And the American Dialect Society’s pick for “Word of the Year?”

What? They don’t announce it until the middle of January? Who waits until the next year to write the year in the review? Do they think some amazing word is going to come along on Dec. 29 and blow away the prospective title holder “Boo-Boo?”

The Global Language and Target Neutralization Robot has chosen “Apocalypse” as its “Word of the Year,” in a move that should terrify no one.

And what of the latest contender for “Word of the Year” kingmaker status, the good folks at Google? Their “Most Searched Word” cuts through the byzantine selection process of dictionary committees and killer robots and replaces it with some good old fashioned math.

The number one most searched word in 2012? Facebook. Oh, and number three is Yahoo.

People go to Google and search for Yahoo.

You know what? Global Language Murder Bot is right, Apocalypse is the Word of the Year. Which means I can already tell you the 2013 Word of the Year:  Goodbye.

Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or wburns@timesrepublican.com.


Recent Headlines


The idea of the fashion city is now a feature of the global competition between cities


Fashion has become increasingly intertwined with city status, domestically and globally according to recent studies. The growing competition among global cities for fashion and design as well as finance and commerce is detailed by Christopher Breward and David Gilbert in their book, Fashion’s World Cities:

The idea of the fashion city is now a feature of the global competition between cities, and has become a part of broader strategies of metropolitan boosterism that give prominence to what have become known as the ‘cultural industries.’…Permutations of [London, Paris, New York, Milan and Tokyo] and a few others have been routinely incorporated into the advertising of high fashion, after the name of a designer or brand, or etched into the glass of a shop window. In some cases the name of the fashion capital is incorporated into a brand name itself (as perhaps most famously in the case of DKNY – Donna Karan New York).


Hurricane Sandy: ‘Frankenstorm’ floods the English language

CNN didn’t like the nickname, saying that it “trivializes” a dangerous weather system. It banned it from CNN broadcasts.  But there’s no stopping “Frankenstorm.” As this beast “barrels” up the coast and gets ready to “slam” the East Coast, “Frankenstorm” is also taking the English language by storm.


And the Top TV Words of the Year Are…

Television can do strange things to our speech. After watching Game of Thrones, for example, it’s hard not to talk about people in the fashion of creator George R.R. Martin. “Please meet my co-worker. This is Jim of House Finklestein, keeper of accounts, slayer of budget discrepancies, wielder of the office stapler.” In the wake of the Emmys, a media analytics company has helped quantify how popular programs and personalities are shaping our language—with a list of this year’s Top 10 television buzzwords.

Read more: http://entertainment.time.com/2012/09/25/and-the-top-television-words-of-the-year-are/#ixzz2DCK0aOFX


The Development of China a Concern to Western Countries








Big Data. Ou melhor, Big Challenge

Neste ano um dos assuntos mais falados foi Big Data. Uma pesquisa no Google Trends mostra um crescimento exponencial no interesse sobre o tema. Participei também de diversas palestras e reuniões com executivos para debater o assunto, e concluí que ainda estamos discutindo muito e fazendo relativamente pouco.

Claro que existem diversos casos de sucesso, mas a maioria das empresas ainda não tem uma visão clara do que é Big Data, do seu potencial e de como alavancar esta potencialidade. O próprio conceito de Big Data ainda está um pouco nebuloso. Veja, por exemplo, o que diz o Global Language Monitor em relação ao assunto: Big Data e Cloud estão entre os conceitos de tecnologia mais confusos da década – todo mundo usa, mas sequer sabe o que significa.


Kate Middleton spend 160,000 dollars per year to be pretty



Duchess of Cambridge, darling of fashion magazines, annually spends $ 160 000 for each of its glamorous public appearances. She must pay clothing and cosmetics, not to mention the gym, according to an estimate by the magazine L’OFFICIEL (Australia).  Last year, Kate Middleton reportedly spent 56,000 dollars to buy cute outfits. This year, the amount is expected to rise to 114,000 dollars depending on the magazine.


Obscure words and London Olympics

What is common among the Dead Rubber, Eggbeater, Fletching and Pheidippidean Pheat?

These are some of the most obscure words and phrases related to the ongoing London Olympics selected by the Global Language Monitor (GLM).  “The history of the Olympic Games spans over 2800 years, with the Games themselves persisting for over 1,000 years in the ancient world,” says Paul J J Payack, President of GLM.  “The Games have garnered a rich tapestry of linguistic innovation concerning the nature of the Games, the individual sports, and the rituals surrounding the quadrennial festival,” he said.

‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Olympic History); the Olympic motto in Latin for faster, higher, stronger; tops the list of words and phrases.



Top Words of 2012 to be announced December 26th (Boxing Day)

The Top Words, Phrases and Names of 2012 have been announced on Wednesday, December 26, 2012.

To see the Top Words of 2012, go here.

The Global Language Monitor’s Top Words are distinguished from similar efforts because it surveys the entire linguasphere focusing on the 1.83 billion speakers of some form of the English language.

GLM tracks words from a dozen different categories from High Tech to the Cinema throughout the year and determines which have emerged as truly influenclng the global conversation, culture, and events.

GLM tracks citations on the Internet, blogosphere, in new social media as they emerge, as well as major global electronic and print media.

To schedule an interview email info@LanguageMonitor.com or call +1.512.815.8836.

Top Words of the Year (2012) by Category Already Announced

Top Trending Words for 2012 in December 2011

  1. Kate (Middleton)
  2. Olympiad
  3. Middle Kingdom
  4. Bak’tun
  5. Solar Max
  6. The Election
  7. Deficit
  8. Rogue Nukes
  9. CERN
  10. Global Warming
  11. Europe
  12. Near-Earth Asteroid
  13. Arab Spring, successor word to


Top Trending Words for 2012 at Mid-year (July 2011)

Rank/Word or Phrase/Position in December 2011

  1. Middle Kingdom or China (3)
  2. Europe or Eurogeddon (12)
  3. The Election (6)
  4. Kate (Middleton) (2)
  5. Deficit (7)
  6. Global Warming (10)
  7. Derecho (New)
  8. Olympiad (2)
  9. CERN (9)
  10. Rogue nukes (8)
  11. Near-Earth Asteroid (11)
  12. Arab Spring, successor word to  (13)
  13. Bak’tun (4)
  14. Solar max
  15. Hen (gender-neutral personal pronoun in Sweden) (New)
  16. Obesogenic (New)


Top Tech Buzzwords Everyone Uses but Don’t Understand (SXSW)

  1. Big Data
  2. The Cloud
  3. The Next Big Thing
  4. Social Discovery
  5. Web 2.0 (3.0, and so on)
  6. Solid State
  7. CERN
  8. Solar Max
  9. De-dupe
  10. 3G/4G/5G
  11. SoLoMo


London Olympics:  Obscure Jargon

  1. Citius, Altius, Fortius (Olympic History)
  2. Dead Rubber (Tennis)
  3. Eggbeater (Water Polo)
  4. Fletching (Archery)
  5. Flu-Flu Arrow (Archery)
  6. High Drag Projectile (Badminton)
  7. Impulsion (Equestrian)
  8. Kotinos (Olympic History)
  9. Marathon (Olympic History
  10. Nutmeg or Nuttie (Football)
  11. Pankration
  12. Pheidippidean Pheat (Olympic History)
  13. Repechage
  14. The Snatch Deadlift (Weightlifting)
  15. Victor Ludorum (Olympic History)


Top Politically Correct Buzzwords of 2012

  1. ‘Hon’  (Sweden)
  2. Peanut Butter Sandwich
  3. Columbus
  4. Normal (Australia)
  5. Pet Owner
  6. Skin Lightening (India)
  7. Black Peter (Zwarte Piet) (Netherlands and Belgium)
  8. Holding Down the Fort
  9. Rule of Thumb  (UK)
  10. White Males of European Descent
  11. Handicap (UK)
  12. Christmas
  13. Prayer
  14. Global English
  15. Politically Correct
  16. Phobes
  17. Speech Codes
  18. Settled Science
  19. Dutch Treat
  20. Global Warming/Climate Change


Top Television Words of 2011-2012 Season (Telewords) (Emmy Week)

  1. Adorkable (Big Bang Theory, New Girl and Modern Family)
  2. Shell Shock (Downton Abbey)
  3. Bi-polar (Homeland)
  4. Dothraki (Game of Thrones)
  5. La Toti (Modern Family)
  6. Scripted
  7. Kate
  8. Fourth Screen
  9.  Jubilee
  10. Dramedy (Louie)


 Top Words from Hollywood (Hollywords) for the 2011-2012 Season (Oscar Week)

  1. Silence
  2. Mai oui!
  3. Iconic
  4. Transformations
  5. Separateness
  6. Domestics
  7. Dramedy
  8. Bathroom Humor
  9. Why?
  10. Muppets
  11. Ides
  12. Jolie Leg Meme


Fashion Buzzwords of 2012 (February)

  1. The Duchess Effect
  2. Peplums
  3. Braids
  4. Pyjamas
  5. Pippa’s Bum
  6. Paisleys
  7. Gatsby
  8. Pale Colors
  9. Tangerines
  10. Novelty Denim
  11. Luxe Hides
  12. African Prints
  13. Ankle Boots
  14. Mixed florals
  15. Color blocking
  16. The 1920s
  17. The 1940s
  18. The 1950s
  19. Ethical Fashion
  20. Sustainable Fashion



Top Politically Correct Buzzwords of 2012

Note:  Top Politically Correct Buzzwords of 2014 Announced May 3, 2015

His and Her, Peanut Butter Sandwich, Columbus, Normal and Pet Owner Top List

The Seventh Global Survey

Words and Phrases from the US, UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Sweden and Australia

Austin, Texas, December 7-9 – ‘His and Her’, Peanut Butter Sandwich, Columbus, Normal and Pet Owner have been named the top politically correct words and phrases of the past year according to The Global Language Monitor in its seventh survey of the global media. Rounding out the top ten were Skin Lightening, Black Peter, Holding Down the Fort, Rule of Thumb, and White Males of European Descent.  The survey found words and phrases originating from the US, UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Sweden and Australia.

“This year’s survey once again illustrates the difficulty in engaging in public dialogue without offending those on the right, left, center, or various combinations thereof,” said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of The Global Language Monitor. “We are seeing that continued attempts to remove all bias from language is itself creating an entirely new set of biases. 

To see the Top Words of 2012, go here.

The Top Politically Correct Words and Phrases for 2012 include:

  1. ‘His and Her’  (Sweden) – The Swedes once again promoting gender-neutrality, this time its with personal pronouns:  him [han in Swedish], her [hon] and he/she [hen].
  2. Peanut Butter Sandwich — Deemed by a Portland grade-school principal to be culturally insensitive to children of other cultures.
  3. Columbus –  Explorer’s Day, please.  Offensive to those who believe Columbus was the beginning of a 16th c. ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ of American Indians, Native Americans, or First Peoples.
  4. Normal (Australia) — According to new guidelines, normal persons in the presence of people with disabilities should not be referred to as ‘normal’ but rather  non-disabled persons.
  5. Pet Owner — It is becoming less acceptable to ‘own’ animals, pet owners have been transformed into ‘pet guardians’.
  6. Skin Lightening (India)– A new phenomenon where Indian women lighten their skin to achieve a ‘fair total-body complexion’.
  7. Black Peter (Zwarte Piet) (Netherlands and Belgium) — The companion of Sinterklaas (Santa Clause), most frequently portrayed by whites in blackface.  First introduced in the mid-nineteenth century, Black Peter is now considered by many, a racist stereotype.
  8. Holding Down the Fort — Possibly offensive to Native Americans, since we all know who the forts was being held down against.
  9. Rule of Thumb  (UK) — Originates from the old English dictum that a husband could not beat his wife or children with any stick wider than his thumb.
  10. White Males of European Descent –From press accounts, you would think this population segment should soon be placed on the EPA’s endangered species list.
  11. Handicap (UK) — Aside from the ‘disabled’ reference, ‘handicap can be offensive to beggars, with ‘cap in hand’.
  12. Christmas — Considered by many under siege until supporters realized that the  ‘holidays’ in ‘happy holidays’ originated from ‘holy days’ and the ‘X’ in Xmas is the Greek letter ‘chi,’ representing the first two letters of Christ.
  13. Prayer — In public the favored word substitute for ‘prayer’  is now ‘thoughts,’ as in ‘keep hen in your thoughts and wishes’.
  14. Global English – The dominance of the English language worldwide is opposed by those who think it the result of  linguistic imperialism or Western Hegemony.  Either way, not good.
  15. Politically Correct – The term politically correct is still politically incorrect (or is it incorrect?).
  16. Phobes — The Loyal Opposition? How 19th century, of you; opponents are now cast as afraid and fearful, a ‘-phobe’.
  17. Speech Codes — Limiting free-speech by declaring what is considered offensive off-limits. A hot topic on campus.
  18. Settled Science — In 1925 it was settled science that rockets would not fly in Outer Space.  Beware of Settled Science.
  19. Dutch Treat — Possibly offensive to the Dutch, since it portrays them as either (take your choice) thrifty (good) or stingy (bad).
  20. Global Warming/Climate Change — As the temperature continues to rise, the debate continues as to its primary cause.  Either phrase is a potential minefield.

The Top Politically Incorrect Terms and Phrases in previous surveys include:

  • 2009:  Swine Flu — Various governments and agencies for political motives ranging from protecting pork producers to religious sensitivity insist on calling it by its formal name: influenza A(H1N1).
  • 2008:  “He Can’t Win” – Hillary Clinton’s coded reference to Barack Obama’s ethnic background as an insurmountable impediment to him winning the US Presidency.
  • 2007:  Nappy-headed Ho — Radio personality Don Imus’ reference to the women on the Rutgers University championship basketball team.
  • 2006:  Global Warming Denier – Scientists not denying climate change, but the role of humans in the millennia-old process.
  • 2005:  Misguided Criminals – A BBC commentator attempts to strip away all emotion from the word ‘terrorist’ by using ‘neutral’ descriptions for those who carried out the 7/7 tube bombings.
  • 2004:  Master/Slave computer jargon – LA County re-labels computer documentation to remove this alleged slur that has been used for decades describing computer hierarchies.
For a complete list of Politically Correct language and controversies since 2003, click here.

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. Since 2003, GLM has launched a number of innovative products and services monitoring the Internet, the blogosphere, social media as well as the top print and electronic media sites.

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




Obama: du candidat super star au président mal aimé




La couverture de l’élection de Barack Obama a été sans commune mesure avec les élections présidentielles de 2000 et 2004. Jacques Portes explique pourquoi le président des Etats-Unis n’a pas réussi à transformer ce succès planétaire en atout au cours de son mandat. Extraits de “Obama, vers un deuxième mandat ?” (1/2).


‘Frankenstorm’ accepted into English Lexicon — Though CNN Demurs

Current East Coast ‘Perfect’ Storm storms pushes Frankenstorm  words over qualifying criteria

Austin, Texas,  October 29, 2012 –  ‘Frankenstorm,’ the massive hybrid storm (combination Nor’Easter / Hurricane) currently churning up the Eastern Coast of the United States, has passed the minimum criteria to be considered an English-Language word according to Austin-based Global Language Monitor.  The number of citations of Frankenstorm have increased 1000-fold in the last few days.

The storm is officially dubbed Hurricane Sandy, according to the the National Hurricane Center.  The names of tropical storms are officially maintained by the World Meteorological Organization.

The Global Language Monitor since 2003 has been recognizing new words once they meet the criteria of a minimum number of citations across the breadth of the English-speaking world, with the requisite depth of usage on the Internet, in social media, and the global print and electronic media,”  said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of GLM.  “Frankenstorm crossed those threshold earlier today with tens of thousands of references in the global media.”
One holdout is CNN.  As quoted in the Washington Post:  “Management at the network has issued a directive not to use ‘Frankenstorm,’ on the rationale that the storm is powerful and deadly. ‘Let’s not trivialize it,’ said the directive, according to CNN meteorologist and severe weather expert Chad Myers.”
The naming of hurricanes have been controversial since 1953, when the practice began of using female names in alphabetical order to name the hurricane.  Typically the Atlantic hurricane season produces fewer tropical storms than the twenty-four letters in the English alphabet.  Later the use of female names was considered sexist, or at least quaint. and male names were added in 1979.  Over the years the names have become increasingly diverse.

The names are chosen in advance and rotated every six years.  The Strongest storms, those deemed with historical significance are retired into a sort of Hurricane Hall of Fame.

Click on the adjacent NOAA icon to see the perspective names for all global hurricanes through 2017.   The name Frankenstorm is not on any list.
 The word ‘Frankenstorm’ is a combination or ‘portmanteau’ word linking Mary Shelley’s character from her novel ‘Frankenstein (or the New Prometheus)’ with the word ‘Storm’ from the O.E. ‘storm’.
One of the word storm’s many senses acquired in the Late Middle Ages is  ‘to rage’  might be especially pertinent here.
Mary Shelly, eighteen years old when she began her novel, never actually called him Frankenstein, which was actually the name of the monster’s creator, Dr. Victor Frankenstein.  Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s creation was referred to simply as ‘the monster”.
Internet Meme
Frankenstorm is also at the center of vigorous  internet meme creation.  It appears the the Frankenstorm meme might cross-pollinate with any number of now circulating Internet Memes on the pending Presidential Elections  on November 6th.
About The Global Language Monitor
“We Tell the World What the Web is Thinking.”  Austin-Texas-based Global Language Monitor analyzes and catalogs 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.
For more information, call 1.512.815.8836, email editor@GlobalLanguageMonitor.com, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.


Third Debate: a Reverse ‘Rope-a-Hope’

Exclusive Analysis

Austin, Texas.  October 23 — The President chose to go on the attack in the Third Presidential Debate last night; in a sort of reverse ‘rope-a-Hope’ strategy the challenger attempted to defuse the pummeling by not quite praising the President’s efforts but, rather, agreeing with him whenever it was even remotely possible.   This was the Obama of 2008, though the pounding spoke less of hope and change & more of a desperate attempt to please his base.

For all the chest-pounding on the President’s side of the aisle, er, Spin Room, the fact remained that Obama was back in familiar territory of long  sentences, a relatively high usage of  the passive voice, with a lower reading ease, and attendant higher grade level scores.  Once again, the higher use of the passive voice often is interpreted as attempting to evade ownership or shift responsibility.  Obama’s use of passive was more than double his use in the Second Debate.    Typically, a bellicose style does not win over the undecided, who seek to be more reassured than shouted at.

Romney’s numbers were remarkably similar during all three debates, which apparently reflects his steady, controlled, ‘gee willikers’-type personality, with a direct, if quaint, speaking style.  This is a style of moderate-length, declarative sentences, with little use of the passive voice,  and short, direct, and easy to understand words.

Both candidates were attempting to sound (and look) presidential and it was apparent that the second task was quite wearying.  Holding back on Biden-esque smirks and Al Gore-ish disdain, feigning interest while keeping their talking points in mind, looked to take a singular toll.

Now the question remains if the Third Debate, along with a narrow win in the Second, is enough to unwind the havoc wrought by Debate No. 1, which introduced Mitt 2.0 (or even 3.0) upon an unsuspecting American electorate.  Indeed, who knew that Mr.  Romney could even affect let alone reverse his apparent off-course trajectory in a 90-minute span?  Seldom has the course of a major American campaign change in a shorter amount of time.  And seldom has a foregone conclusion, Obama winning an electoral  landslide, collapsed as  suddenly.


Not the Thrilla in Manila, but Certainly Nasty in Nassau

Austin, TEXAS.  October 17, 2012.  The President Obama of yore (2008, that is) showed up at the debate  last night and so was hailed the victor.  In fact, the numbers show that it was not that Romney faltered.  He did not.  Rather it was the President who recovered from his first debate ‘debacle’ (as viewed by his strongest supporters).

The numbers reveal the story.  First, keep this number in mind:  7.4.  This is the grade level of Obama’s most widely hailed speech, the “Yes, We Can!” Grant Park victory speech.  ‘Yes, We Can!” is widely perceived as a classic to be enshrined in the American Oratory Hall of Fame along side Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream,” Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,’ and Ronald Reagan’s “City on a Hill” speeches.

In the first Presidential debate, Obama’s grade level came in at 9.2.  For a debate, with all its give-and-take, interruptions, pauses and the like, that was a rather high number. A Town Hall meeting is definitely not the place for the  grandiloquent turn of phrase, especially when you are trying to woo the undecided citizens of the land with plain speakin’ — no matter how uncomfortable that might be.

We all told in sixth grade that a newspaper should be written at the sixth-grade level, which from the sixth-grade perspective  can be quite a challenge.  What this really translates to is short sentences, concise paragraphs, fewer polysyllabic words, and all written in active voice.

As an example, Joe Biden spoke at a sixth grade level (6.1) in the vice presidential debate and there were few who claimed the inability to understand Ol’ Joe.   (Unfortunately, these tests do not evaluate facial expressions.)  In last night’s debate , Obama scored 7.2 in the grade-level score, about 28% lower (and in this case better) than his first debate — and nearly identical to his Grant Park discourse.

Both Romney and Obama cut their used of passive voice nearly in half  from 6% to 4% and 3%, respectively.  Active voice, where the subject is the doer of the action, is always preferred over passive voice in political discourse since it can be used to avoid responsibility.  (‘Taxes were raised’ rather than ‘I raise raised the taxes.)

Finally, Obama’s reading ease score improved over 8% from 63.1 to 70.1; Romney’s remained a bit higher at 71.0.

In champion fights, the unwritten rule is that you never take the current champ’s crown away on — points unless the victory is overwhelming.  Last night the President showed up to fight, and thus is awarded the victory on points.  So the Presidential Debate series now stands even at 0ne all, with the rubber (and deciding) match to take place next week.


With Obama’s structural lead, debate stakes couldn’t be higher

October 16, Austin, Texas — (Opinion) We have seen this all before in politics, in the board room, on the ball fields, and in life. The person at the top of the pecking order makes a misstep, seemingly minor, and then cascades into something major, and then cascades further still until it become calamitous — unless it can be stopped in time. Time is of the essence here. It must be squelched immediately, or sooner. And hopefully sooner still.

Perhaps it is ironic that one of the best examples was that of Mitt Romney’s Dad, George, in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination back in the late ’60s. George Romney claimed that he had been ‘brainwashed’ by the U.S. military and diplomatic personnel on a visit to Vietnnam. “Romney brainwashed’ screamed the headlines. And that was all it took for his campaign to unravel.

Even a youthful observer could understand that Romney was using what in literature is known as synecdoche, where a part is used to represent something far larger. I have since seen this repeated scores of times in political confrontations of all types most recently in the Arab Spring. Today, we label this kind of support ‘shallow’ where a significant number of supporters are ready to abandon their candidate at the first instance that a viable alternative arises.

Could this explain what we saw in the aftermath of the first debate? It seems unlikely, but nevertheless could explain the remarkable transformation of the presidential contest we are now witnessing. I should note that it also doesn’t mean the the president will lose on November 6th. His lead is structural, both in terms of constituents as well as geography. There are many paths available for Obama to construct a electoral majority. For Romney the options are far fewer. Even if Romney’s momentum continues to build, there is a possibility of Romney eking out a slim victory in the popular vote, while losing by a far larger margin in the Electoral College.

The stakes in Tuesday’s debate could not be higher. For Romney the task is to build upon his momentum, for Obama it is to halt Romney in his tracks before he loses complete control of the race.

Paul JJ Payack, president, Global Language Monitor

A slightly different version of this article appeared on TheHill.com on October 15, 2012.


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).