How. Mike. Pence. Talks.

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Sometimes, anyhow —

You won't be surprised to learn that these short metronomic phrases are a particular rhetorical tool, used at certain points in his presentations, as a sort of prosodic version of words. in bold. separated. by periods.

For example, this passage from Pence's speech at the National Space Council on 10/20/2019:

But as we gather here today we do so recognizing that it's been forty seven years since the last American
set foot on the moon.
In fact our great shuttle program including the
space shuttle Discovery behind me was grounded nearly a decade ago.
The truth is as all of you know
for too long America was content
with low earth orbit and missions focused on the earth
instead of aiming for the stars.
But I'm proud to report that under president Trump's
leadership

all of that is changing.
As the president said in his inaugural address we stand
at the birth
of a new
millennium
ready
to unlock
the mysteries
of space
and that's exactly
what
we're
doing.

 



7 Comments

  1. BobW said,

    August 24, 2019 @ 12:29 pm

    Captain. Kirk.

  2. John from Cincinnati said,

    August 24, 2019 @ 1:59 pm

    One audible pause does not appear in the transcription. At 0:27 I hear "But I'm proud to report that under president Trump's … leadership …".

    Just sayin'.

    [(myl) OK, fixed — though that's pretty clearly a disfluent pause rather than a rhetorical one.]

  3. Ben Zimmer said,

    August 24, 2019 @ 5:02 pm

    For more on using periods (or other punctuation) to indicate Captain Kirk-style prosody, see the Nov. 19, 2007 post "Exhausted Grammar" and links to previous posts therein.

    [(myl) Interesting that the same typography is used for exhaustion and for emphasis, although the phonetic interpretation is different.]

  4. KevinM said,

    August 25, 2019 @ 6:12 pm

    Definitely might occur in people who are accustomed to speaking to crowds over PA systems. Here I suspect it's a form of audible underscoring, as in "Spock's Brain": Worst. episode.ever.

  5. Steve Morrison said,

    August 25, 2019 @ 7:25 pm

    Another use for such periods is to indicate barely-controlled anger, as though speaking through clenched teeth: "I. do. not. lie." is an example I saw once on Usenet.

  6. john Swindle said,

    August 26, 2019 @ 3:07 am

    The movement of the head is characteristic. I was going to say the movement of the head was "striking," but we don't see him actually hit it on anything.

  7. Aaron Toivo said,

    August 27, 2019 @ 7:03 am

    I understand periods in such constructions to refer to pause length between words. A period pause is 1.5x – 2x the length of a comma pause, yes? Or did my high school English teachers lie to me (again)?

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