Multilingual president
Posted: 29 April 2007 02:30 PM   [ Ignore ]
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This comment by Hillary Clinton, currently the Democratic front runner for president, is really funny.  She has been raked over the late-night comedy shows opening monologues because of her penchant for changing her accent depending on which audience she’s in front of (Southern in front of southern settings, African American preacher-voice in front of AA Congregations, a Park Ridge, Illinois drone in front of the Senate).  But now she jokingly explains that she’s lived all around this great land of ours and

“I think America is ready for a multilingual president.”

To which Wonkette “the DC Gossip” replies:

Argh! No, no, NO! You do NOT get to pass off your cohort of funny voices as DIFFERENT LANGUAGES.

for some reason, her permalinks are not working work here.

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Posted: 29 April 2007 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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“I think America is ready for a multilingual president.”

She is, of course, contrasting herself to a president who is inarticulate in two languages.

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Posted: 29 April 2007 09:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I still think you’re misunderestimating his strategery. He’s inarticulate in both his own language and yours, which are both variously called English, but that’s its own form of multiculturalism.

Without taking sides, and without wanting to promote unseemly graphic comments, somewhere on the web is a very funny photo of a “Hillary Special” at a KFC involving thighs, breasts, and a left wing. Alright, it is sexist.

Mygawd, Snopes has a lot of pop-ups!

[ Edited: 29 April 2007 10:46 PM by foolscap ]
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Posted: 30 April 2007 12:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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If you read the comments on that article on Wonkette’s site, you will see that there is quite a strong opinion that this shifting of accents to suit the occasion is natural human behaviour.  I remember being fascinated when listening to a friend who had gone to live in the US on a return visit to the UK.  When she spoke of her life in the States, her accent was American (well, mid-Atlantic) and when she spoke of the old days in England, her accent was British.  I’m sure it was done unconsciously.

Is “wonkette” a slang word for something?

[ Edited: 30 April 2007 02:32 AM by bayard ]
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Posted: 30 April 2007 03:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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foolscap - 29 April 2007 09:50 PM

He’s inarticulate in both his own language and yours, which are both variously called English, but that’s its own form of multiculturalism.

The two languages he’s inarticulate in are English and Spanish.

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Posted: 30 April 2007 04:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Is “wonkette” a slang word for something?

OED:

wonk 4. U.S. A disparaging term for a studious or hard-working person.
1962 Sports Illustrated 17 Dec. 21 A wonk, sometimes called a ‘turkey’ or a ‘lunch’, roughly corresponds to the ‘meatball’ of a decade ago. [...]

wonkish adj. orig. U.S. Polit. excessively concerned with minute points of (governmental) policy (cf. policy wonk n. at POLICY n. Compounds 2); (also more generally) bookish, intellectual; extremely detailed or specialized.
1992 Washington Post 7 Mar. A11/1 There is a lot of wonkish material in here: ‘targeted tax credits’, ‘community policing’, all manner of education and social service reform. [...]

“Wonkette” is obviously a humorous nonce-formation with the feminine suffix -ette (the blogeuse being a woman).

And yes, it’s perfectly normal to code-switch with different audiences (my college roommate used to remark on how I would develop an Ozark twang when on the phone with my father’s family); I’m no fan of Hillary’s, but this is a typical example of unremarkable behavior being used as a convenient club to bash a politician one does not like (cf. Bush and “nucular").

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Posted: 30 April 2007 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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languagehat - 30 April 2007 04:55 AM

‘m no fan of Hillary’s, but this is a typical example of unremarkable behavior being used as a convenient club to bash a politician one does not like (cf. Bush and “nucular").

Right.  I do it too.  Even the black preacher voice before African American groups (though I try not to lay it on too thick).  The point of my post was the “multi-lingual” adjective.  What would this be called “multi-dialectical” (though given my interest in Hegelian philosophy, that might sound to me like several syntheses erupting at the same time).

The sense I have about Bush’s Spanish is that Hispanic groups tend to see it as an affirmation of their language even when it’s bad.  He’s even said that he tries not to speak it often since he doesn’t want to destroy a beautiful language.

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Posted: 30 April 2007 05:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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groups tend to see it as an affirmation of their language

Precisely.  IMHO it’s unfair to knock a person who, by (even badly) imitating someone else’s accent or attempting to speak their language, is at the very worst acknowledging their audience’s national identity.  I include in this both politicians who may be doing it for gain, and those of us (like me) who tend to unconsciously mimic the accents of those round about us.

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Posted: 30 April 2007 11:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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It would definitely require conscious effort on my part not to do it. I never picked up a British accent, but I fell into the British forms of speech almost immediately. It is a form of social support and part of human nature for us to support each other in social situations. It is, in fact, a survival skill.

I’d also never expect ‘multi-dialectical” from anyone who knows her audience as well as Hillary obviously does. Calling herself “multilingual” wasn’t done in error. I’m sure it was carefully crafted.

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Posted: 30 April 2007 09:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The two languages he’s inarticulate in are English and Spanish.

I’d say he’s inarticulate in English and without a clue in Spanish. But that’s OK because so am I and a disjointed speech pattern is an American tradition, especially for Texans. Witness Boomhauer (a sort of personal role model), by Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge.

(AHD) articulate:

ADJECTIVE: 1. Endowed with the power of speech. 2. Composed of distinct, meaningful syllables or words, as human speech. 3. Expressing oneself easily in clear and effective language: an articulate speaker. 4. Characterized by the use of clear, expressive language: an articulate essay. 5. Anatomy Consisting of sections united by joints; jointed. 

VERB: Inflected forms: ar·tic·u·lat·ed, ar·tic·u·lat·ing, ar·tic·u·lates

TRANSITIVE VERB: 1. To pronounce distinctly and carefully; enunciate. 2. To utter (a speech sound) by making the necessary movements of the speech organs. 3. To express in coherent verbal form; give words to: couldn’t articulate my fears. 4. To fit together into a coherent whole; unify: a plan to articulate nursing programs throughout the state. 5. Anatomy To unite by forming a joint or joints. 6. Architecture To give visible or concrete expression to (the composition of structural elements): a spare design in which windows and doors are barely articulated. 

INTRANSITIVE VERB: 1. To speak clearly and distinctly. 2. To utter a speech sound. 3. Anatomy To form a joint; be jointed: The thighbone articulates with the bones of the hip. 

ETYMOLOGY: Latin articultus, past participle of articulre, to divide into joints, utter distinctly, from articulus, small joint. See article.

Now I know why they call them articulating buses.

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Posted: 04 May 2007 08:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Slate carries on the conversation.  Pretty much what we said.

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