Are folks linguistically retarded?

Saw most of the debate last night, but gave up on it after a while. I felt like I was just sort of cheering for the side I’d already chosen. One thing I’ve noticed this election cycle is a difference I perceive in the way the different parties seem to be voting. To wit: it seems to me that people who are supporting the Barack Obama/Joe Biden ticket are doing so because they truly believe in it, while people who are supporting the John McCain/Sarah Palin ticket are doing so because they truly believe against its opposite.

Which is to say: it seems to me that the entire election, no matter how people are voting, is being determined by Barack Obama. Either people really like him and believe he can do the job well, or people really dislike him and don’t believe he can do it and so want to keep him from office at all costs.

I read a bit of the debate coverage. I was surprised it recorded higher viewership than the actual presidential debate. One of the reasons I’m rather indifferent here is that, well, No Contest 2008 is a presidential election. Too many people are forgetting that.

But really, I want to talk about language.

I thought Biden was calm, self-assured, and rather articulate. He seemed to speak well.

But what is it, exactly, that seems to prevent all conservative, Christian Republicans from being able to pronounce words like “nuclear”? How can you correctly pronounce the name of Ahmadinejad but then say that Iran is pursuing nukular technology? And what is it about “bet you” versus “betcha.” I’ve heard people refer to it as ‘folksy charm,’ but that just makes me wonder:

Are folks linguistically retarded?

It’s the only explanation I can think of.

And can I just say: is there anything more condescending than this whole “Main Street” versus “Wall Street” thing? I get that it’s a comment on investment banking and the financial market, and I’m not saying I fully understand either (then again, I think few people understand either, and that includes the people dealing in both, which is probably a big part of the reason for the current state of the economy), but it seems both divisive and willfully ignorant. It seems to me to kind of say: “Oh, is that that thar, like, paper money and such? Me and the missus don’t give that much thought. We’re simple folks, me and the missus. We go to our church and pray to keep things simple. The people in the schools and all that book-learnin’… we don’t much abide by all that. We only need the one book, me and the missus. We heard people invest money in stuff like stocks and bonds, but we don’t understand that. The missus just keeps a stash in her underwear drawer, and that’s always served us well enough. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go milk a cow.”

You’d think that given the four different colleges and universities Palin attended (all as an undergraduate, mind you), and given the fact that she spent five years earning a degree in communication and journalism (“Lots of people go to school for seven years.” “Yeah. They’re called doctors.”), she’d be able to pronounce a word like “nuclear.”

Here’s another question: if Barack Obama got on stage and used words like “betcha,” “gotcha,” “ain’t,” and “nucular,” would people wink and nudge and say he’s all folksy or would they question his education, and how he managed to get into law school? I’d bet dollars to donuts someone would mention the words “affirmative action” in the same sentence as “president.”

6 thoughts on “Are folks linguistically retarded?

  1. LYNMARIE

    I had the same comment on her pronunciation of “nuclear” on my blog. It really makes her seem stupid, like the current bonehead in office. I cringe every time I hear it.

  2. CROW

    Its the dumbing down of America.

    Our educational system, not at the University level, but at the foundational level up through high school that is failing. There is a massive inferiority complex that is pervasive among the idiocracy that chooses someone ‘just like them’ to run the country instead of the most competent, knowledgeable candidte.

  3. FUTURESTANDARD

    “if Barack Obama got on stage and used words like “betcha,” “gotcha,” “ain’t,” and “nucular,” would people wink and nudge and say he’s all folksy or would they question his education, and how he managed to get into law school? I’d bet dollars to donuts someone would mention the words “affirmative action” in the same sentence as “president.””

    I would certainly not bet against you on that one.

    It is interesting, though – if Obama talked the same manner that Palin does, he would NEVER have gotten to where he is today. Funny how that works.

  4. ALMA

    I actually think that some of the stuff Palin does is on purpose. That speech last night was a prime example of her trying to draw a distinction between her/John McCain and Barack Obama/Joe Biden. Obama/Biden represent “Easterners” who are educated and affluent…out of touch with the real needs of middle and western America–or Main Street. Where she and McCain are down-home Westerners who spill maverick blood for their country…and stand up to the educated, affluent Easterners. They may not know book-learning, but the know personal values and blahblahblah. The fact that the party roles are exactly OPPOSITE is almost hysterical. Almost. Except it’s probably working.

    Here’s the deal: this election comes down to Independent voters. Democrats are pretty passionately Obama. I suspect Obama has many more supporters than McCain–it’s just the way it blows in hard times–especially when we’re in an unpopular war initiated by the unpopular President of the opposite party. However, Obama’s getting a lot of backlash because he’s African American. It’s total BS and subtle racism. But it’s absolutely apparent that Obama is aware of it and has held back considerably–letting Biden say the things he can’t say without being called any number of stereotypical BS. By being who he is–he’s getting a lot of shit about being an uppity so-and-so. It’s all disgusting. One thing that worries me most is that Obama is supported by a large percentage of people who historically do not vote. It’ll take an extraordinary push for Obama to win.

    Here, in Colorado–a battleground state–the Obama campaign really seems to be doing a lot of grassroots stuff…phone call drives and even driving people to polls. They’re worried.

    Biden did an okay job last night, but he didn’t come across as genuine. He was stiff and played into the Palin portrayal of rich, white Easterner. While I think Palin is a dumbass at many things, she does seem to know the sensibilities of Westerners and Midwesterners–many of which are independent voters. The whole maverick ideology taps into that–and her sarcasm also played right into it. I think she’s mostly full of BS, but then I’m not the market she’s targeting.

    Personally, I don’t think a candidate can win if the people are voting to avoid the other candidate. Didn’t work for Kerry–who I think would have been a damn great president. I also think that anyone who’s confused about who they’re voting for now is either clueless, dumb, or delusional. No other election has drawn the line more clearly, and no other election trumps this one in important. I suppose what worries me most is that some people still don’t get that, won’t vote…or will vote for the entirely wrong reason.

    I still think this is an imperfect system, and whoever makes it to the White House should address that. I hope it’s Obama. If it isn’t, I’m probably going to live in Toronto after the new year. And yes, that is the most patriotic thing I can do.

  5. WILL ENTREKIN

    @Lynmarie: you should link to your blog. I’d love to see it.

    @Crow: yeah, it really does come down to education. I notice that a lot, especially in that one of the first things I have to do is unteach my students categorical/superficial thinking that the current elementary and secondary education systems indoctrinate.

    @futurestandard: Funny’s one word for it, but so is sad. Crazy, too.

    @Alma: I think you’re right, for the most part. I think that what I was getting at was that Obama backlash. Democrats are strongly for Obama right now, while Republicans are strongly against him, but not necessarily for McCain.

    I think you’re right about Biden’s performance last night, although I think he knocked the bit about being a single father out of the ballpark. I was expecting that about as much as I was expecting Palin to sound intelligent (i.e., not at all), and it was a very visceral moment, I thought. Palin’s been noting the hockey mom thing, but it’s interesting how the media is so okay to ignore the single dad.

    I hate to say it, but I think most Americans are clueless, dumb, or delusional, if only because Bush managed to get re-elected. And as for the affluent Easterner thing, well, I’m from Jersey. I mean, people say “elitist” like it’s a bad thing, but I’ll be the first to admit that I want the better, smarter candidate, and I happen to think Obama is better and smarter than McCain. Which is an interesting dynamic right now; McCain’s the old, rich, white guy, and if anything, he’s certainly the more affluent, elitist of the two; Obama fought hard to get where he is, and I can’t say the same for McCain.

  6. HANNAH

    That’s what worries me, Will. The fact that Obama is SO smart, especially about the LAW (which I think is, you know, a good thing for the leader of the country), but all them there “book-learnins” makes him stuck up and arrogant. But the VP candidate who has no idea what’s going on, has NO CLUE, she’s the one who is “down-home” and “folksy”. She says a few things and winks at the camera and people go insane for her.

    Seriously?

    We already tried the whole “down-home” thing. Bush doesn’t seem to have even basic grasps on the english language and people went ga-ga over him because he was “just like them”. Shouldn’t we be learning from our mistakes?

    I’ve been talking to a bunch of my friends from England, and they’re just starting to be speechless about this whole thing. It’s like that bit in Dress to Kill, “Everyone in Europe is just looking over at you and going ‘What ARE you doing?'”

    I thought that the VP debate went well. I thought Biden was clear, I thought what he said had a lot of content and was aimed exactly where it should be. I think because the hype of Palin failing was so huge, the fact that she wasn’t a total spazzing idiot talking about how seeing Russia makes her foreign policy rock, actually helped her. She was getting rave reviews after the debate, but what did she actually say, really? She had about four points that she knew and just steered every question for two hours to those points. Which is fine, she came off sounding “folksy” and smart (for the most part) at memorizing what she’s supposed to say, but because the expectations we so low, the pay off for her was high.

    Ugh. I’m getting so tired of this who thing. Can’t we just vote and usher in the apocalypse already?

    -H


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