Sarah Palin

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What with all the controversy over Sarah Palin's views and (lack of) qualifications to be President, as far as I can tell thus far no one has claimed that she is prone to linguistic errors. That's really too bad. If only she would make the right sort of error, rather than the mundane bushisms we could be discussing palindromes.


  1. Andy Hollandbeck said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

    I hadn't realized Palin had such lofty goals. I thought she was only shooting for the VICE presidential spot! At least during this election.

  2. Sili said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 3:26 pm

    Well – she is being driven round the round blogosphere, so I guess that makes the it a Palindrome, too.

  3. Jonathan Lundell said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

    Mr Hollandbeck should review Article II Section 1 of the Constitution and the reread Mr Poser's post.

    At the risk of provoking the comment police, I'll further digress from the topic of bad (in the good sense, of course) puns on Palin, and ask: what about Palin's accent? As a native Minnesotan, I hear something distinctly familiar in her accent that I don't ordinarily associate with Alaskans.

    Mr Verb has a post on the topic that's a start, but isn't completely satisfying.

  4. John Cowan said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

    The comments (currently 14 of them) at Mr. Verb's post are quite helpful.

  5. Andy Hollandbeck said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

    Maybe I'm behind on my news, but I haven't heard that there were questions about her quantitative qualifications. Aren't the qualifications for vice president the same as for president? Are there questions about her citizenship? Has she not been a resident for 14 years? (I know she's old enough.)

    Pardon my ignorance. It's expected, though, considering how I've been avoiding coverage of the RNC.

  6. Jonathan Lundell said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 3:54 pm

    The (currently) last post at Mr Verb, by one Rob, says "So the consensus is: It's still a mystery." My hunch is that the transplant idea is right, that Palin grew up in a community with other transplants who had a Minnesota-esque accent. Maybe we'll hear some Wasillan old-timers interviewed….

  7. R N B said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 4:27 pm

    Lo Ho! Claret fades. Sarah harassed after alcohol.

  8. Larry Sheldon said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 4:30 pm

    "Are there questions about her citizenship? Has she not been a resident for 14 years? (I know she's old enough.)"


    Alaska has been a state since I was in high school, I think.

    I guess I don't understand the question.

    And on the accent–it seems to me (having driven the route) that there are similarities of accent, eh? from northern Iowa through Minnesota, Alberta, British Columbia, to Anchorage.

  9. Bill Poser said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 4:31 pm

    @Andy Hollenbeck,

    There is no dispute as to whether she meets the constitutional requirements. The debate is over such things as her lack of experience in foreign affairs, her lack of experience in Washington, her education, the extent to which being the mayor of a small town and governor of a small (in population) state has given her executive experience, etc.

    As to it being her qualifications to be President, as Jonathan Lundell points out, the Vice-President is the successor to the President. Since John McCain is not a spring chicken and has health issues, there is a real chance that if he is elected, he might die or be temporarily or permanently disabled and Sarah Palin might become President. Furthermore, even if he survives his first term, he might well not be up to a second term, in which case his Vice-President would be strategically positioned to become President.

    Being allowed to make bad puns is one of the few perks that accompany a Ph.D. in Linguistics.

  10. Theophylact said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 5:08 pm

    If indeed she was in such a panic lest her Down-syndrome preborn child (to use the proper cant phrase) fail to be delivered in Alaska that she risked a ten-hour flight with a leaking bag of waters, then at least she thinks being a natural-born citizen of Alaska is more important than life itself.

    She was born in Idaho, and so meets the birthright qualification. But perhaps she's become a naturalized citizen of another country — Alaska?

  11. A Yes Person said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 5:29 pm

    Well, the National Review has embraced some of what she has to say — or, at least, how she says it. See here and here.

  12. Nathan Myers said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

    Is this a good time to ask about the origins and range of the "h" sound sometimes prepended, apparently for emphasis, to personal pronouns in the midwest? I mean "Hi" for "I" and "Hyou" for "you". It's quite evident in Dar Williams's "Iowa", e.g.

    Staying resolutely on topic, has the practice reached Alaska?

  13. Rubrick said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

    @Nathan: I hesitate to extend an off-topic sub-thread, but Dar is from the northeast.

  14. DonBoy said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

    I hope you're aware of the fake Sarah Palin blog, The Palin-Drome, that went up within hours of the announcement on Friday.

  15. Nathan Myers said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 9:21 pm

    Rubrick: Hokay. But about those aitches…

  16. arthur said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 10:23 pm

    I request commentary about second hubby Todd Palin's accent, since he comes from Dillingham, a much more isolated corner of Alaska. Also he's allegedly one quarter or so Yupik Inuit, so presumably he knows X/4 words for snow. However, Mr. Palin hasn't spoken aloud before a tape recorder or videocamera yet as far as I've seen.

  17. hjaelmer said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 11:01 pm

    On Friday I distinctly heard her refer to nucular power.

  18. Roger Lustig said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 12:37 am

    hjaelmer, you're evidently not the only one who heard that! includes the term "new-clear."

    (Also two mentions of "clean coal." Coming soon: carbon-free coal!)

  19. dr pepper said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 12:41 am

    Peevology: The NR commentator likes that she says "nucular", "I-raq", and "I-ran", those being true american pronunciations. And she is "leaderly", which the commentator acknowledges isn't a word but should be. Otoh, it is also consider a plus that she is willing to call herself a man, rather than changing "-man" words to "-woman" or "-person".

    I'm confused.

  20. June Casagrande said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 1:04 am

    I couldn't wait for the opportunity to use Palindrome. I blogged about her blue-collar husband (and the media drumbeat of the terms "working-class" and "blue-collar" and called the blog post: "Palin-drone." (

    I guess I was trying to hard to bee clever.

  21. June Casagrande said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 1:05 am

    Note to self: deliberate misspellings of "bee" only work if they're not in the same sentence with accidental misspellings of "too."

  22. Joe said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 1:31 am

    Is it just me, or has the word frequency of 'moose' gone through the roof? There's hardly a story that doesn't mention mooseburgers, and Fred Thompson seems to think that field dressing a moose is a presidential qualification.

    So when I came here, I was really hoping this would give me a chance to learn, once and for all, what the correct plural of moose is. I've heard everything from mooses to meece and mice, but I'm not convinced any of those is correct. Is it its own plural or something? Because that sounds wrong, too.

  23. T said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 1:38 am

    Alaska is the 49th state of the United States of America *sigh*

  24. Tor Hi.y'all said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 2:46 am

    The plural of elg (the Norwegian word for moose) is elg.

  25. Bill Poser said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 3:00 am

    @Roger Lustig,

    I'm not sure what Palin meant, but I can imagine someone not an anti-science/anti-environmentalist apocalyptic kook referring to "clean coal". She might mean anthracite or "hard coal", in comparison to which bituminous coal or "soft coal" is much nastier environmentally. Bituminous coal contains, among other things, a lot of sulfur and produces nasty sulfur compounds when burned. (This is one of the factors in China's air quality problems: China doesn't have much oil or natural gas but has a lot of bituminous coal.)


    Well, as you know there are various notions of "correct", but as someone who is reasonably well versed in moose culture (I have eaten moose steak for breakfast, taken part in butchering them, and participated in tanning the hide), my vote is for "moose". The singular and the plural are the same. The umlauted plural "meese" is ahistorical as "moose" is not a Germanic word. It is a loan from some Algonquian language, I'm not sure which. The word for moose in the only Algonquian language that I sort of know, Plains Cree, is moswa, plural moswak.

  26. Bill Poser said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 3:01 am


    No, I didn't know about the Palin-Drome site. Thanks for the pointer.

  27. Nathan Myers said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 3:10 am

    Speaking of bad puns:

    "The Reign of McCain falls mainly on Palin" — Eric E.

  28. Tor Hi.y'all Ph.D. said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 3:26 am

    I have eaten moose steak for breakfast

    Oh yeah? Well, they crap in our back yard, so put that in your…whatever. There's nothing wrong with the sound of 'moose' for the plural form; I'm sure you would call them a herd of moose, not a herd of mice. The Norwegian word for a moose is et elg, and it's the same elg singular and plural.

  29. John Atkinson said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 4:03 am

    "one quarter or so Yupik Inuit"?

    How does that work? Is he one eighth Yupik and one eighth Inuit, or what?

  30. Karen said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 5:57 am

    Isn't it moose? Like deer, certainly, and the usual plurals of caribou and elk? (And sheep, though they aren't wild.) That's the form in MWU. As a borrowed word it might have been made regular, but I think the analogy with deer, etc., was too strong.

  31. Faldone said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 6:53 am

    AHD says moose is from the Eastern Abenaki mos.As for the alleged Minnesotaness of her accent, I heard it in her original TV appearance but it was totally not there at her convention speech.

  32. Marc Naimark said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 8:20 am

    She did say "pundint". One of my pet peeves.

  33. Jonathan Lundell said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 9:56 am

    @Faldone, yes, it was very much reduced (though not entirely absent) in her speech. I wonder whether it shows up more in conversational speech than a "shouted" speech reading.

    @Bill Poser, "clean coal" these days generally refers to burning coal with substantially reduced emissions (possibly including CO2); there's no precise meaning, as it's primarily a marketing term. Wikipedia has a pretty good treatment of the subject.

  34. Chad Nilep said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 10:11 am

    John Ridley parodies Palinguage, the inconsistent labeling of politically controversial notions, rather than 'Palindromes'.

  35. The Volokh Conspiracy said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 10:27 am

    Given that Sarah Palin is Now in the Political Race,…

    I take it that the campaign — the place in which Palin is running — must be a … palindrome.

    Plus there's the McCain birthplace connection, with the Teddy R……

  36. Mark Liberman said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 10:49 am

    You all may be interested to know that palintologists are *not* the people digging for scandals up in Alaska.

  37. Bill Poser said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 11:30 am

    @John Atkinson,

    How does that work? Is he one eighth Yupik and one eighth Inuit, or what?

    "Yupik Inuit" is a barbarism, but I can see why someone would say it. The people known until recently as "Eskimos" fall into two main subgroups, the Yup'ik and the Inuit. The boundary falls within Alaska. The Western Eskimos are Yup'ik; those to the East, all the way from a point within Alaska across Canada to Greenland, are Inuit. One could therefore refer to "Yup'ik Eskimos". The subgroup of the Inuit who live in Alaska are known as the Inupiaq.

    The problem is that the term Eskimo has come to be regarded in many circles, especially in Canada and Greenland, as derogatory. (This is not true historically, but like many exonyms people have come to feel that way about it anyhow.) In Canada, Inuit is now used as the general term for all Eskimos. Eskimos themselves are divided on this. One political organization, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, supports the use of Inuit as the cover term, but it appears that this usage is not generally accepted in Alaska.

    Anyhow, for many people Inuit is now a generic term for Eskimo, so even the Yup'ik are a kind of Inuit. Since the term Yup'ik is not that widely known, one may want to make explicit the fact that it refers to a kind of Eskimo by adding either Eskimo or Inuit.

  38. Joe said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 11:55 am

    I thought 'clean coal' was mainly a marketing term. The coal industry is putting out ads talking about 'clean coal: America's power'.

    While it's true that we're pretty dependent on coal, 'clean' is relative to other coal plants. It's one of the dirtiest power sources (but it's cheap and necessary). It actually releases more nuclear isotopes (which are naturally present in coal) during mining and burning than anything but actual nuclear plants. Due to global warming, many people want to start moving away from coal, because it releases lots of carbon dioxide.

    However, coal is important to several politically important states, so it's an important thing for them to emphasize that they won't go against the coal industry due to environmental concerns.

    Oh, and thanks to all for the moose information :)

  39. Bryn LaFollette said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 3:40 pm

    I, for one, am gonna start following the Plains Cree model of pluralization of 'moose', and say 'moosek' [musk]! At least, until someone can direct me to the plural of 'mos' in Abenaki.

  40. janes'_kid said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 4:39 pm

    I lived in Western Alaska for a few years. The several Yup'ik I knew personally rather disliked the term Inuit. They would identify themselves when asked by strangers as Eskimo. After one got to know them individuals might share that they were "Central Yup'ik" or "Siberian Yupik".

  41. Faldone said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 8:17 pm

    Bryn LaFollette: "I, for one, am gonna start following the Plains Cree model of pluralization of 'moose', and say 'moosek' [musk]! At least, until someone can direct me to the plural of 'mos' in Abenaki."

    According to this site plural animate words end in K. Whether this means the plural of mos is mosk or mosVk I couldn't say. Going with 'moosek' [musk] sounds as good as anything.

  42. Joe said,

    September 5, 2008 @ 2:14 am

    I remember reading that commonly used words tend to retain special rules, while uncommon words tend to be made regular over time. I wonder if moose will ever become 'mooses'?

    Because I admit to liking moosek as the plural.

  43. James said,

    September 5, 2008 @ 2:30 am

    There are even a few Yup’ik people who dislike being called “Yup’ik”. They are the Cup’ig/Cup’ik (Eng. /ˈtʃupik/), from Chevak and Nunivak. I guess they should be “Cup’it” (plural) but I never hear that in English for some reason. The Yup’ik should be “Yup’it” too, but again that’s rare. The Inupiat (Eng. /iˈnupiæt/ ~ /inˈjupiæt/) in contrast are usually referred to with the proper plural ending, in my experience, although this may just be because English speakers try to avoid the [q] that they lack. And Inupiat also occasionally dislike being labeled “Inuit” because they feel that it’s too Canadian for them.

    Now back to Sarah Palin.

  44. anchorageite said,

    September 5, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

    I'd attribute her accent to her parents, who were living in Idaho when they had her (I do not know where they grew up). There is no recognized accent for Anglo speakers of English in Alaska that I know of. The proportion of residents who were born Outside is astounding; with so little isolation, it is no wonder that even the few small towns that exist don't sound different from Nebraska. Asking the few old-timers around Wasilla won't do much good, because they will probably have spent their formative years in the Lower 48.

    If Wasillans spoke with a Minnesota accent, it would be because of the Federal colony planted in the Matanuska Valley in the 1930s. The farmers the government moved to the town of Palmer, southeast of Wasilla, were from Minnesota.

    NPR seems to be practically dropping the first [wa]syllable of the name of the town: I've always heard it pronounced "Waw-SILL-uh," but on the radio it's become "Wuh-SILL-ah."

  45. anchorageite said,

    September 5, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

    Let's not forget Wasilla's palindromic cooking store, All I Saw Cookware.

  46. Wayne Leman said,

    September 8, 2008 @ 5:51 pm

    As a native Minnesotan, I hear something distinctly familiar in her accent that I don't ordinarily associate with Alaskans.

    As a native (and partly Native) Alaskan who loves to guess where people are from by their accents, I also noticed Sarah's accent. I don't think it is Minnesotan, although there are similarities. I didn't hear the accent when her parents were interviewed. I have relatives who live in Wasilla and they don't speak with Sarah's accent. To my ears Sarah vowels sound similar to those we've heard on a well-known Indian reservation in the U.S. where we lived and worked for 30 years. I'm guessing Sarah may pick up accents quickly and that hers may include some of what we Alaskans call Bush English (and there is no single variety in the Alaskan "bush"). If we could hear Todd Palin speak more, we would know if Sarah has picked up her accent from him. He's from the Bush (no pun intended with the current resident of the White House).

    As for a palindrome, the Palins may already have something close:Todd flies a float plane. Perhaps when it puts in on autopilot it becomes a palindrone. Sarah is well known for being very assertive, as when she was called Sarah Baracuda for her style of play in basketball. If Todd flies the palindrone, perhaps Sarah herself is a predator drone.

    Curious minds wonder about such things.

  47. Wayne Leman said,

    September 8, 2008 @ 5:55 pm

    NPR seems to be practically dropping the first [wa]syllable of the name of the town: I've always heard it pronounced "Waw-SILL-uh," but on the radio it's become "Wuh-SILL-ah."

    And NPR has gotten it wrong (or at least different from how anyone in Wasilla or the rest of Alaska pronounces Wasilla), just like when one of their people pronounces Oregon as "ory-gone." But then I still can't pronounce "Lehrer" even though I've been trying to say it the way Jim Lehrer does for years.

  48. Wayne Leman said,

    September 8, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

    Unlike in Canada, it is perfectly acceptable to call us Eskimos, those of us who are fully or partially Yupiks or Inupiats. Native Alaskans are either Eskimos or Indians.

  49. Wayne Leman said,

    September 8, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

    There is no recognized accent for Anglo speakers of English in Alaska that I know of.

    I would agree. Anglo speakers of English in Alaska speak with whatever accent to had when the moved to Alaska. Those of us who were born and raised in Alaska speak Northern West Coast American English, as it is spoken in the metropolitan areas from San Francisco north.

    Native (blood) Alaskans speak English with whatever accent their village has. I don't know if any careful studies have been made of Alaskan Native English. There are lexical, syntactic, and phonetic differences from the dialects spoken by Anglo speakers of English in Alaska.

  50. Richard Caiander said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

    While 'Rome burns' pundits may play with words! What's important, the words or the ideas behind them? The point here is that "being qualified to be VP entails being qualified to be President as well." Don't forget that the primary function of the VP is to replace the President if necessary. This is the reason McCain's choice was so very reckless.

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