Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sarah Palin, you're no William Shakespeare

If you were paying attention, you didn't hear it here first: Sarah Palin, malapropist extraordinaire, garbled yet another attempt to communicate in the English language ... then tried to excuse herself by claiming The Bard's high ground.

Here's how it was reported by San Francisco's Examiner.com:
Recently, the former Alaska governor Tweeted her opposition to a Mosque and Islamic community center being built near the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. [...] The project has received endorsement by the local city council and by New York Mayor Micheal Bloomberg, but opponents have raised unsubstantiated claims that the center will be a bed of extremism and that the head Iman is a radical. [...] Palin has sided with the opposition. And recently Tweeted to that [e]ffect: “Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate."
Pls refudiate?

Poor, poor Sarah Palin. "Refudiate" is not a word. Well, somebody told her quick enough, so she deleted the post quoted above, and tried again:
Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan.
Here she used a real word, "refute," but incorrectly. Then she took the replacement tweet down and tried a third time. Phew! No syntactical errors, no made up words. Whether the tweet she settled on is misguided, bigoted, or both? That's a matter of opinion. I'm not going to give her posturing further play, click on the Examiner link if you want to decide for yourself. And note the error in the quoted passage of that news site's own prose (hint: I corrected it). Sigh.

But here's the kicker, as far as the failed VP candidate's use of language goes. After her series of scrambled tweets in broken English, Palin posted this:
'Refudiate,' 'misunderestimate,' 'wee-wee'd up.' English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!

Does the fact that a man counted among the greatest-ever poets and dramatists "liked to coin new words" have anything to do with a throw-in-the-towel governor who is incapable of expressing her ideas?

What would Ben Jonson have thought?

I heard this bit of Palinology first in the locker room at the YMCA as the "story" gained traction (check out, for example, the U.K. Telegraph's learned commentary; or the Fox article with the desperately defensive lead). A gentleman I enjoy talking with when our paths cross there passed along the news.

The first thing I thought of was Lloyd Bentsen's immortal remark in his 1988 vice-presidential debate with one of Palin's prior incarnations, former veep Dan Quayle. I don't think it's off-base to characterize Mr. Quayle as intellectually weak. I also remember that, at the time, his selection as George H. W. Bush's running mate was disappointing to many in his own party. Quayle, a senator from Indiana, likened himself to the late senator and president John F. ("Jack") Kennedy a bit more than two-thirds of the way through the debate. His opponent, Senator Bentsen of Texas, just about bursting with on-camera incredulity, retorted with a zinger:
Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
Watch the video if you've never seen this before. Or if you have, and want to relive a jaw dropping case of self-aggrandizement followed by a deeply satisfying smackdown:



A transcript of the exchange is part of a full blown Wikipedia article. For committed masochists, the full debate is transcribed on debates.org. Quayle and Bush 41 won the election handily. C'est la guerre.

Sarah Palin, you are no William Shakespeare.

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