Oct 02, 2008, 09:49AM

Diagramming Palin's Sentences

Slate has been all over the nonsensical (I'd say Dada-ist) prose of Sarah Palin.

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While this piece from Slate, which broke down her...excerpts into poetry, is fantastic. I have to go with the amateur sentence diagrammer. There is simply no better way to both reconjure 6th grade and prove Sarah Palin cannot give a straight answer in any context.

I had to give up. This sentence is not for diagramming lightweights. If there's anyone out there who can kick this sucker into line, I'd be delighted to hear from you. To me, it's not English—it's a collection of words strung together to elicit a reaction, floating ands and prepositional phrases ("with that vote of the American people") be damned. It requires not a diagram but a selection of push-buttons.

Granted, diagramming usually deals with written English. We don't expect speech to reach the heights of eloquence or even lucidity that the written word is capable of. In our world, politicians don't do much writing: Their preferred communication is the canned speech. But they're also forced, from time to time, to answer questions, and their answers often resemble the rambling nonsense, obfuscation, and grammatical insanity that many of us would produce when put on the spot.

Yet surely, more than most of us, politicians need to be able to think on their feet, to have a brain that works quickly and rationally under pressure. Do we really want to be led by someone who, when asked a straightforward question, flails around like an undergraduate who stayed up all night boozing instead of studying for the exam?


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