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Olbermann's take on Wallace/Clinton… - Nate Bunnyfield [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Nate Bunnyfield

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[Sep. 27th, 2006|01:51 am]
Nate Bunnyfield
Olbermann's take on Wallace/Clinton

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3932719463459133063
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: simrok
2006-09-27 04:40 pm (UTC)
i looked everywhere for video footage of this after i read the transcript -thanks!
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[User Picture]From: lazyman
2006-09-28 03:44 am (UTC)
A good place to find topical political/media videos is Crooks and Liars
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[User Picture]From: subplot2
2006-09-28 03:42 am (UTC)

minor irritation

Oh for Christ's sake, like the executive branch needs anymore "manliness."

Olbermann should know better than to be so dated with his rhetoric.



(The actual clip of Clinton's interview is pretty good.)
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[User Picture]From: subplot2
2006-09-28 03:44 am (UTC)

Re: minor irritation

*any more
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[User Picture]From: lazyman
2006-09-28 03:48 am (UTC)
The whole interview with Clinton is on youtube in three parts (1, 2, 3)
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[User Picture]From: subplot2
2006-09-28 03:51 am (UTC)
Er, that's what I meant. The whole interview.
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[User Picture]From: lazyman
2006-09-28 04:11 am (UTC)
I'm guessing the "manliness" might have been put in there because a big component of Bush's image is playing the manly-cowboy-fighter-pilot, and Obermann might be trying to chip into that façade.

It might also be the use of such a dated term is a deliberate, if oblique, reference to the Declaration of Independence:

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
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[User Picture]From: subplot2
2006-09-28 04:39 am (UTC)

If Judith Butler had a show on MSNBC....

God love you Brian, but I think you're reaching there. :)

My point being it's not effective to push progressive ideas without progressive language--a difficult task since standard English is very much a patriarchal, white supremacist language, but I think avoiding overtly isolating language isn't too much to ask, especially given the image Olbermann is trying to create and the audience he is trying to reach. If he wants to distinguish himself from the wanna-O'Reilly-bes, he shouldn't use the same language as them.

My two cents.
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[User Picture]From: lazyman
2006-09-28 05:30 am (UTC)
I agree it's reaching, but since the word is so out of place, I suspect he had a specific reason for using it and it's not some latent patriarchalism. Although it's true Olbermann likes to flower-up his language, I think to build an intellectual image and for his own ego.

Which raises a question (not about Olbermann in particular): is it more intellectual to use ornate language or antiquated definitions and trust the audience to understand, or to be more plain-talking because some words have fallen out of favor or may be interpreted as offensive? Isn't the former insensitive? Isn't the latter dumbing down?
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[User Picture]From: subplot2
2006-09-29 11:33 pm (UTC)
I suspect he had a specific reason for using it and it's not some latent patriarchalism.

Maybe. It's just not wise to unnecessarily ostracize a large demographic of your listeners if you're trying to win people over. It just goes to show how much heterosexist and sexist language is still widely accepted in the mainstream. I'm trying to picture him saying the president should act more white, and I imagine that would not go over well. That's not to say that standard English is by any means friendly to all races--I'd argue quite the opposite, but some overt references are more taboo than others.

As for your question, I'm not sure what you mean by intellectual, are you referring to a measure of intelligence or the type of people who like to drink coffee and talk about Proust? Without giving a direct answer to what is "more intellectual," here are my thoughts on the appropriateness of ten-cent words:

Vernacular is largely driven by socioeconomic class. What language to use is environmental. If you're at a scholarly conference, you're expected to use a more Latinate and elevated language (since Latin was originally the language of higher speculation, it was easier for the monks to bring Latin into English as loanwords than try to calque in or newly coin words like transubstantiation). Much of this Latin was used only in writing, so only the upper classes were using this language. Obviously that's changed with the spread of literacy, but it's largely still in effect today: the language used by the well-read is different from the language(s) used on the street.

Where I see a problem is with the implication that scholarly language is better or is a sign that the speaker is somehow inherently smarter than the person next to him/her. Scholarly English is Standard English on crack: it assumes authority and thensome. The dominant culture of monolingual English speakers isn't respectful to the many other forms of English that exist: rural English, Black English Vernacular, Spanish-English hybrids, etc. Our society demands that speakers be able to code-switch in order to fit the environment: I'd be laughed at if I finished a sentence with a preposition in one of my graduate seminars, I'd also be laughed at if I said to my virtually illiterate aunt: "For whom is this letter intended?"

I don't see anything wrong with using language your audience understands: that's not "dumbing down," it's insuring your points are understood. For example, the language I have used in this response is aimed at an educated and well-read engineer (that's you--you're an engineer, right?). I avoided much of the linguistic jargon I may have used if I were talking to one of my colleagues, but I didn't omit it entirely. Not knowing your familiarity with the material, I supplied a definition for calque (taking a chance of offending you), but left code-switch alone, since you can probably understand what I mean with context alone.

I think "big" words are fine if used with respect. The reason most of them exist is to give a sharper degree of meaning, which is sometimes necessary. Using them unnecessarily and in the wrong environment does tend to make the speaker sound pompous, and can be considered quite rude. What's the point of flapping your jaw if no one understands you?

I don't really watch enough Olbermann to comment on his language use. Perhaps he's targeting a well-educated demographic, perhaps he's trying to gain authority. If his language is becoming overly ornamental, I suspect he'll be missing out on many viewers who might otherwise be sympathetic to his ideas.
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[User Picture]From: lazyman
2006-09-30 07:58 am (UTC)
I should have clarified that I meant "what would seem more intellectual...", for exactly the issue you raise: one's use of language implies levels of social and educational standing.

Certainly the speaker bears most responsibility for making himself or herself clear, but does the audience have some responsibility for understanding the meaning of the speaker? If the speaker can't rely on that, only the most generic language would be usable.

As the audience, criticizing word use because of under- or over-analysis seems risky. A notable case of under-analysis was the "niggardly" incident in Washington DC a few years back.

With Olbermann, I think you might be over-analyzing his language. You must admit you are more sensitive to sexual connotations of language than most, since you are writing a Masters in "gendered discourse analysis".

The word "manly" clearly has a sexist dimension because it assigns positive traits to one sex, but that doesn't mean the word should necessarily be avoided. In defense of Olbermann, the sexism implicit in the word is the sexist attitude which Bush has built his image around, so the President opened up the comparison. Bush is the guy who flies jet planes, clears brush on his ranch and fucks his wife missionary position. He's the cowboy who's going to get the terrorists "dead or alive". Olbermann could have said "honesty and forthrightness we expect of the Executive", but I think he was trying to put on a sharper degree of meaning and in doing so call out Bush specifically. I suspect the political, rather than linguistic, focus of the audience would draw that connection.



Or maybe I'm over-analyzing it myself. It is, after all, cable news.
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[User Picture]From: subplot2
2006-09-30 01:05 pm (UTC)
I CAN'T IMAGINE EITHER ONE OF US OVERANALYZING ANYTHING!

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[User Picture]From: next_bold_move
2006-10-01 07:04 pm (UTC)

Re: minor irritation

I think this is an unfortunate choice of words that reinforces an idea that the Executive, and therefore government, is a place for masculine virtues exclusively.

But I still think it's a great piece.
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