Friday, October 3, 2008

Morning Coffee: Nothing's Off-Topic Here Except...

I don't like spam with my eggs.

I know people are going to ask, this morning (in a gloating tone, in an unsafe environment, before I've had my third cup of coffee): "So, what do you think of Sarah Palin now?"

I think she has about as much depth as a kiddie pool. But major kudos to Sarah Palin's debate coaches; they almost pulled it off. I would hire them in a heartbeat to tutor my kids. While many of Palin's answers don't really hold up to close scrutiny, and even my twenty-year-old daughter thinks that kind of last-minute cramming is "cheating" and utterly worthless in the long run, when it comes to things like, oh, dealing with foreign nations you can't see from your back yard, Palin held her own against Joe Biden last night.

My saying that she "held her own" isn't saying much; by last night's debate, the ability to form one coherent sentence that parsed to something like "subject verb" would have been impressive all by itself. And my TV is just damned lucky I like it; my daughter had to physically restrain me from throwing things at it every time Palin said "noo-kyu-lahr." For the love of God, is this the secret Republican rallying cry? "Noo-kyu-lahr"? My son has had two science teachers who pronounce it the same way, and it drives me absolutely batty. All together now:

Noo-klee-ur. Comes from noo-kyu--oh, @#$% they've almost got me doing it now. We are Borg...resistance is...

Nuclear. Noo-klee-ur. Nucleus. Noo-klee-us. (Not "Nukes 'R' Us.") Whew. Better now.

Am I overreacting? Language matters. Clear communication matters. While the Constitution might have more relevance to your average hacker if the Preamble went something like this:

wE 7eH pe0plE 0F 7eh un17Ed 5747e2, 1n 0rder 70 F0RM 4 M0RE PErfec7 Un10N, E574bL15h jU571cE, 1N5uRe d0ME571C 7R4NKW1l17y, PR0V1DE F0r 7eH C0mM0n dEFENCe, pR0m07e 7eH GeNER4L WeLF4rE, 4nD 5ecURe 7eh ble551Ng2 0F l1Ber7y 70 0uR5Elve2 4ND 0Ur p057eR17Y, D0 0Rd41N 4ND E574bL15H 7H12 c0N5717U710n f0r 7eh Un17ed 5747e2 0f 4mer1C4.

The rest of us would never have bothered to read it, now, would we? Think the young voters would prefer it like this?

We d ppl of d United st8z, n ordA 2 4m a mor perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide 4t comN defence, promote d general Welfare, n secure d Blessings of Liberty 2 ourselves n r Posterity, do ordain n establish dis Constitution 4t United st8z of USA.

And this one's for you, Joe Six-Pack:

We th' Varmints of th' United States, in Order t'fo'm a mo'e puffick Union, establish Jestice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide fo' th' common defence, promote th' juneral We'fare, an' secure th' Blessin's of Liberty t'ourselves an' our Posterity, does o'dain an' establish this hyar Consteetooshun fo' th' United States of South Car'lina.

Anyone else notice how, instead of being more inclusive and something we can all relate to, this kind of babble just alienates - even angers - huge segments of a very large population? I propose we go back to reasonably standard English, now (allowing for minor differences in spelling due to time and geography):

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

More importantly, I propose that we insist our children study and learn reasonably standard English, so that they are able to effectively communicate with one another (and us - isn't it remarkable how standard linguistic conventions are able to bridge the gender gap?) and not make fools of themselves in public. Who knows, one day, one of them might even run for President or Vice President of the United States of America. Or Congress. Or the Supreme Court. They might actually have to uphold that Constitution for this more perfect onion--er, Union.

Need. More. Coffee. Now. I think I'll indulge in just one more cup before braving the three-mile commute...


  1. The ability to communicate is essential for leaders, and I'm not impressed with folksy. Why are we catering to Joe Six-Pack? And who is he? Someone who drinks six beers every night after work? This is a good thing?

  2. I nearly fell of the couch last night when she started in with the "nuk-yu-larh". You were the first person I thought of. I was wishing I had a phone to give you a call.

    Did you hear Matt Lauer interview Rudy Giuliani this morning? He asked him something along the lines of "Do you think Palin's performance was indicative of a real understanding of foreign policy, or the result of last minute cramming for a test?" Giuliani paused and laughed and said "I'm not sure I understand the difference..."
    Matt Lauer, after picking his jaw up off the floor said something like "Well one is a depth and breadth of understanding of the issues that comes from years of study and paying attention and one is knowing the words from, um....cramming overnight for a test."
    (I'm paraphrasing. Can't remember the specifics, but that's the gist of it).

    She held her own, in that she didn't implode. The folksy talk is making the hair on the back of my neck rise, though. And the fact that she wouldn't deviate from her script, regardless of the questions that were posed was 1) infuriating, 2) smart on her part. I'm guessing that's the only way she was going to make it through it.

  3. She was one note, but looked good, and that will matter to millions of 6 pack Joes who will indeed vote. I know some of those has been said, less can be more, and thankfully Joe Biden did just that. It shall be interesting to see what questions Tom Brokaw comes up with for next week. He ran off a few of the things not touched upon yet during the discussion after the debate last night. Personally, it has all gotten tiresome and I have to go stuff some more money under my mattress.

  4. Governor Palin, thy name is Shallow Sarah?

    I can't read the Preamble without that Schoolhouse Rock song coming in to my head. And it's going to be a head tune ALL DAY!

    Unfortunatly I had to miss most of the debate - prior commitment. The last half hour that I saw, it was apparent the Shallow Sarah crammed for the debate, and did quite well on the test, I must say. How far will that get her if she gets elected? I guess that depends on how much responsibility McCain gives her....

  5. Well...

    I'd have been lots happier with the possibility of "President John McCain" had he not chosen "Shallow Sarah" (good name, Mr. Bill!) as his running mate. I don't question his judgment on that - I think it stinks.

    And I LOVED Schoolhouse Rock!! "I'm just a Bill... on Capitol Hill..." or my all-time favorite: "Conjunction Junction, what's your function?"

    Ohh, NO, Mr. Bill!! You've got all kinds of obnoxious things running through MY head now. (Misery loves miserable company, I see.)

  6. Picking Shallow Sarah was a steal. Had Obama chosen Hillary for a running mate, Obama would have the women voters and perhaps ran away the the election in Nov. But Obama made a less volatile choice with Biden. So McCain, hoping to steal Obama's thunder during the DNC, went with Sarah to get the women's vote that Obama let go.
    Choosing Sarah was strictly a short-term solution to stop the Democratic momentum and win the election. I don't think Sarah is going to be a major political player if McCain wins.

    But that's just my humble opinion.

  7. I have written before, Mr. Bill, that I find McCain's choice insulting and offensive. As IF Democratic women voters who care about the issues would be eager to chuck aside their values and run to vote Republican just because he picked "one of them"? I lost a great deal of respect for the man when he did that. I got a phone call from someone close to me, that day, gloating, "Does this change your vote?" Are you KIDDING? It's not about gender, race,'s about brains and ideology. I'm not that easily bought, and I'm deeply offended at the notion - PARTICULARLY after watching Palin's pathetic performance during her interviews with Katie Couric.

    Obama would've made a bold but fairly risky choice if he'd named Hillary. I think she has actually come out and said she didn't want the VP slot, but regardless, I like their ability to put the past of this year's campaign trail behind them and stand united now. Biden was a safer choice, but a less exciting, potentially less energizing choice. No one could really fault Obama's choice here, though.

  8. I am a registered Republican because in Oklahoma an independent can't vote in preliminaries. However, I know as many Democrats who mispronounce nuclear as Republicans or Independents. The problem I see is many schools and parents find it easier to allow sloppy language usage than to struggle and insist that children learn.

    Listen to the newscasters murder grammar and good speech. The older media people don't often, but I cringe every time I hear between James and I, or for you and I, or The crowd it ... Oh, and when the word picture is pronounced pitcher. Ish.

  9. Ahh, Vivian, we are in total agreement there! I have no idea what party affiliation William's science teachers have, either. For a staunchly Red state - ironic, that terminology - we've been experiencing a Blue shift, lately. I cannot imagine these teachers support "No Child Left Behind." It has been a disaster here. Though it finally occurs to me that perhaps that has more to do with the Rapture than with education...

    By the way, for anyone who doesn't know, Vivian is a longtime friend - a very dear one - and my publisher. Republican or not, I think the world of her.

  10. I lived with my grandmother when I was in 9th grade (a whole year with a woman who was 60 years my senior and had been an English teacher for 17 years). My father was in the service and having moved around a good bit, I probably picked up some accents along the way. When I first moved in with grandmother, she corrected me on my pronounciations all the time. Even if I were pronouncing the words correctly, she would not hear it because of my accent. The one that killed me was "library"; she always thought I was saying "liberry" but I wasn't. I knew not to give her reason to correct me but she seemed to hear what she wanted to hear.

    I too dislike hearing the jibberish of today's younguns. My kids may have lived in this podunk town for the last 10 years and have picked up the talk of their friends but they know when they speak around me, they will be corrected. Problem is that Benjamin has picked up his father's bad habit of speaking uber softly and mumbling that he can't be understood.

    On my job, it drives me nuts when the doctors say words incorrectly because a mispronounciation could lead to a fatal error on the patient's report. (The one that comes to mind as being the stupidest pronounciation is varicose - one of my hand doctors pronounces it as if it were spelled very coyse - like there is an extra letter - it drives my supervisor crazy too but now that I'm on that account, she doesn't have to do as much of him as I do).

    I agree - send them to school to learn communication and the world will pay more attention to what they have to say. - Good posting (even though I've decided politics aren't for me and it doesn't matter what they say, they will do a completely different thing. No one stays the course on the issues they say they will work on while in office.) See you in the postings - E :)


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