“Folksy Is America”

Once again, I’m saved from writing a post because someone else wrote something better than I would have. Here’s the link to John McWhorter’s fine article on Sarah Palin’s speaking patterns:


McWhorter’s close reading–uh, close hearing?–skills are formidable. Here he is on Palin’s use of “that” and “there”:

All of us use there and that in this way in casual speech — it’s a way of placing topics as separate from us on a kind of abstract “desktop” that the conversation encompasses. “The people in accounting down there think they can just ….” But Palin, doing this even when speaking to the whole nation, is no further outside of her head than we are when talking about what’s going on at work over a beer. The issues, American people, you name it, are “there” — in other words, not in her head 24/7. She hasn’t given them much thought before; they are not her. They’re that, over there.

This observation is good too:

Palin strings her words together as if she were doing it for herself — meanings float by, and she translates them into syntax in whatever way works, regardless of how other people making public statements do it.

And sometimes McWhorter’s writing just makes me smile:

Palinspeak is a flashlight panning over thoughts, rather than thoughts given light via considered expression.

His last line, alas, brought merely a nod:

As such, Sarah Palin can talk, basically, like a child and be lionized by a robust number of perfectly intelligent people as an avatar of American culture. And linguistically, let’s face it: she is.

She is. There it is. That truth thing.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: