More words for the verbage bin

I just finished reading a great article on “verbage” [sic] in the New Yorker. It discusses both Republican disdain for Barack Obama’s linguistic skill and Sarah Palin’s extraordinary meat-grinder approach to the spoken word.

Along the way it does something undeserved, though: it credits the governor with coining the term “verbage,” which apparently she did not. It gets the meaning of the term correct though, and I suspect that she is as unaware of her mispronunciation and its associated alternative meaning as she is of the fact that she says “nucular” (a verbal tic she shares with our current president).

It is almost worth repeating the entire second portion of the article verbatim here, but I’ll let you click the link. I do want to call out a few select quotes from Sarah Palin, however. From the vice presidential debate:

I do take issue with some of the principle there with that redistribution of wealth principle that seems to be espoused by you.

Ugh. A classic example of letting your mouth get ahead of your brain. It can be difficult to speak coherently when you’ve started talking without any clear mental roadmap to the end of your sentence, but still, I would like to believe that someone who needs a command of the breadth of knowledge required of a president or vice president would at least have a little more command of their native tongue. I remember cringing at “espoused by you” when I heard it live, but that final phrase just served to distract me from the redundant incoherence that preceded it.

Here’s another:

Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be-all-end-all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet.

Ummmm… OK. I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean, but any of the possible interpretations would probably be equally terrifying. It seems to suggest to me an “End of Days” philosophy, consistent with the governor’s (reported) religious beliefs. True, I’ve never actually heard Palin utter the phrase; it was her Tina Fey doppelgänger who did. But it is reasonable to assume that she does believe in the Rapture, and quite possibly that it’s on its way soon.

In this country we have freedom of religion, and people are at liberty to practice whatever faith they choose, in whatever way they choose, as long as they do not violate any laws or the rights of others. Fair enough. Religion is by definition not based on objective, verifiable fact, so it’s a pointless exercise to argue the merits of one set of religious beliefs over another. But I do believe it is truly dangerous when the principles that seem to be espoused by Sarah Palin find their way into the highest levels of government. We run the grave risk of turning the nation into a 300-million-member doomsday cult (whether we all go along willingly or not; all it takes is 270 electoral votes), and the entire planet into a poisoned Kool-Aid mass suicide, courtesy of that end-all-be-all, “nucular” weapons.

Now that’s some verbage that lives up to its name.