Obama: A Rebirth of the Cool and Return to Intelligible Speech At the Top

by Meg Guiseppi on December 5, 2008


Have you heard the collective sigh of relief? Have people told you they suddenly feel lighter and comforted by Obama’s move into leadership?

A friend swore to me yesterday that her blood pressure recently dropped to a healthy level, after an 8-year dangerous high.

Stand-up comedians are concerned about the sudden lack of good material to work from. Some fear it’s the end of comedy.

Among hopefully many other positives and benefits with Obama and his administration, we’ll no longer be plagued by hearing the leader of the free world talk about “nuke-yah-ler” weapons. Or mangle the English language. Or fumble for an obvious word.

As a wordsmith and someone who appreciates smart use of words, I’ve been cringing for 8 years, anticipating yet another beating to our wonderful language.

Andy Borowitz opines tongue firmly in cheek in his Huffington Post article, Obama’s Use of Complete Sentences Stirs Controversy, that Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years:

“Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama’s appearance on CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday witnessed the president-elect’s unorthodox verbal tic, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.

But Mr. Obama’s decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.

According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it ‘alienating’ to have a president who speaks English as if it were his first language.

“Every time Obama opens his mouth, his subjects and verbs are in agreement,” says Mr. Logsdon. “If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist.”

Conversely, Borowitz includes a rebuke of Obama’s insistence on using complete sentences by Gov. Sarah Palin:

“Talking with complete sentences there and also too talking in a way that ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder can’t really do there, I think needing to do that isn’t tapping into what Americans are needing also,” she said.

Ain’t literacy great???

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