Like a Valkyrie

by Larry Tate on December 11, 2008

As readers of this blog know, we’re no fans of Sarah Palin. In fact, we have been hatin’ on her ever since she flashed us her first wink and youbetcha. We were even pretty entertained by Dick Cavett’s blog post in the New York Times on November 14th entitled “The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla.” Truth be told, Dick’s post was the rhetorical equivalent of this late hit of Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Gus Frerotte. The election was over. The long, excruciating, carnival of cringe was mercifully breaking down its tents. And yet, here was Cavett, pulling into the parking lot expecting cotton candy and a ride on the tilt-a-whirl. And he was not to be denied.

Even though we might technically have to throw a flag on Dick for piling on at this point, there isn’t a single thing that any sane person would find wrong with his logic. Plain’s “frayed syntax, bungled grammar and run-on sentences” were thoroughly and profoundly embarrassing. Palin can’t speak. Period. It’s gibberish. Gobbledeegook. One time, when she was being interviewed, I thought my wife had changed the channel to the Space Cantina scene in Star Wars.

Despite all this, here comes Camille Paglia to tell us that the Palin patois was actually the candidate’s greatest strength:

Once the Republican ticket was defeated, the time had passed for ad feminam attacks on Palin. Hence my surprise and dismay at Dick Cavett’s Nov. 14 blog in the New York Times, “The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla,” which made a big splash and topped the paper’s most-read list for nearly a week. [. . .]

Cavett’s piece on Sarah Palin was insufferably supercilious. With dripping disdain, he sniffed at her “frayed syntax, bungled grammar and run-on sentences.” He called her “the serial syntax-killer from Wasilla High,” “one who seems to have no first language.” I will pass over Cavett’s sniggering dismissal of “soccer moms” as lightweights who should stay far, far away from government.

I was so outraged when I read Cavett’s column that I felt like taking to the air like a Valkyrie and dropping on him at his ocean retreat in Montauk in the chichi Hamptons. How can it be that so many highly educated Americans have so little historical and cultural consciousness that they identify their own native patois as an eternal mark of intelligence, talent and political aptitude?

In sonorous real life, Cavett’s slow, measured, self-interrupting and clause-ridden syntax is 50 years out of date. Guess what: There has been a revolution in English — registered in the 1950s in the street slang, colloquial locutions and assertive rhythms of both Beat poetry and rock ‘n’ roll and now spread far and wide on the Web in the standard jazziness of blogspeak. Does Cavett really mean to offer himself as a linguistic gatekeeper for political achievers in this country?

Clause-ridden? Are you serious? Who knew that making sense was such a clear indicator for effete, upper class snobs.

I’m waiting for Paglia to endorse one of these two sonorous, real life guys for Vice President some day:

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Larry Tate December 18, 2008 at 2:40 PM

Please allow me to apologize to all our readers for my egregious mixed metaphors in this post.


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