Sunday, June 16, 2013

Give a dog a bad name...

A friend sent me a story about Sarah Palin (here), commenting "If you're able to parse Palin's actual meanings, you must be smarter than the average bear! Sarah's lips move a lot, but if you try to parse her meanings, I'm not convinced they make any actual sense!"

I don't think so. It's easy to find scrambled syntax from Palin, so she's gotten this reputation, but this is fairly ordinary. Without her name attached to it, it wouldn't have gotten much notice.

Let's take a look at the four quotes in the story:
"Militarily, where is our commander in chief? We're talking now more new interventions. I say until we know what we're doing, until we have a commander in chief who knows what he's doing, well, let these radical Islamic countries who aren't even respecting basic human rights, where both sides are slaughtering each other as they scream over an arbitrary red line, 'Allah Akbar,' I say until we have someone who knows what they're doing, I say let Allah sort it out"
Militarily, where is our commander in chief? = Where is he, x-ly? is a pretty common phrasing for "what is his position as regards X?" or even "X speaking, what is he doing?"

We're talking NP = also very common in speec.

The rest of it is barely problematic at all: I say (that) until we have X, well, let Y. She has a resumptive "until we have someone who knows what they're doing", also very common in speech.

"I think it's kind of dangerous territory, territory to want to debate this whole one race's fertility rate over another, and I say this from someone who's kind of fertile herself," Palin said. "I don't think that's where we want to go in deciding how will we incentivize the hardworking responsible families who want to live in the light, follow the law, become Americans, versus those whose very first act on our soil is to break the law? There are different ways that we can debate this."
This one? A parenthetical punctuated with commas (instead of parentheses or dashes), a bit of jargon (incentivize), and some talking-points jargon, also a missing "and", which is extremely common in speech. Otherwise, very ordinary.
"They should think of me as a friend. For a while there, I was providing more job security for the Tina Feys of the world and doing more for those employment numbers than Obama's ever done," Palin said.
This one has her trademark (to-me-)odd use of "those", but is otherwise unremarkable.
"You know what I wish Congress would do? If they would just for one week perhaps, put themselves on Cruz control, on Ted Cruz control," Palin said. "Just for a week and let's see where things go. I think we'd see some solutions."
This one - except for being a spectacularly bad idea - is almost utterly normal. The reporter hasn't put in enough commas, but otherwise not even the slightest bit of syntactic oddness there, as far as I can see.


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