Home > Language, Politics, Today's News > Offhand Condescension

Offhand Condescension

October 30, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve had a post and a follow-up post that refer to the discussion at Language Log of Sarah Palin’s speaking style, including such topics as the significance of g-dropping, the extent to which she does so deliberately, and the press’s coverage of it. Today at Language Log, Geoff Nunberg continues the discussion in a post on Dissin’ Sarah, which he begins with the observation that “no one ever went broke overestimating the media’s capacity for offhand condescension.” This is with reference to ABC’s transcript of an interview of Palin by Elizabeth Vargas, in which Palin is quoted in print as saying such things as “I’m just … thinkin’ that it’s gonna go our way on Tuesday … .”

As Nunberg notes,

Now you wouldn’t expect the transcribers to photoshop Palin’s anacolutha and false starts (though I don’t think the public’s need for full information would be compromised if they cleaned up a repeated “the” here and there). But do they imagine that Palin is the only one of the candidates who drops a g now and again, much less says kinda for kind of or gonna for going to? And if you want to hear condescension compounded, listen to Wolf Blitzer having a Tina Fey moment as he reads from the Vargas interview transcript and dutifully drops Palin’s g’s where indicated.

It’s true that Palin works her g-dropping for effect, as I noted in an earlier post. But then so do Biden, Obama, Hillary Clinton, and even McCain on occasion. And even if she’s more ostentatious about it than they, there’s no call for rendering it in transcriptions. It’s a device that suggests speech that’s uneducated or nonstandard, akin to eye-dialect (e.g., writing sez for says and wuz for was). And in its small way, it seems to confirm the right’s picture of elite media types who look down on ordinary Joes (Sixpack, Blow, or Plumber, as the case may be).

In this connection, Bill Labov has observed that our perception of variable processes like g-dropping is categorical: when people do it a little, we don’t perceive it; if they do it a bit more, they seem to be doing it all the time. Which may explain ABC’s heading for one video segment: “Palin: ‘Not Callin’ Out Obama.” As it happens, though, when you listen to the video, it turns out that Palin didn’t actually drop the g on calling.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: