gender, language, politics

Clinton’s Email “Scandal”

William Langston has forwarded to me this column by Ruth Marcus from the Washington Post. In it Marcus offers reasonably intelligent and well-meant advice to Hillary Clinton about what she should have done, and should do, about Clinton’s burgeoning email problems. I have a few issues with the column, and some thoughts about what the “scandal” may really be about – something neither Marcus nor any of the other zillion commentators appears to have given any thought. Continue reading

language, politics

Understanding the Unintelligible

Donald Trump may be a jerk, but he’s a compelling jerk. Jeb Bush may be the closest anyone can come to a rational Republican, but he’s a bore. Understanding this distinction clarifies the Republican primary process, which otherwise might seem even weirder than it is.


Candidates’ behavior on the stump falls into three neat piles: linguistic, paralinguistic, and extra-linguistic. The linguistic behavior is what shows up in the printed transcript of a speech: the words and grammar alone. Paralinguistic behavior is everything else that emanates from the vocal cavity: intonation, pitch, speed, loudness, and more. The extra-linguistic part of a message includes facial expression, gestures, and stance. Continue reading

gender, politics

How to Vote Liberal


The latest argument against voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries is that, compared to Bernie Sanders, she just isn’t liberal enough. Pundits claim that the Democratic Party in recent years has shifted as far to the left as the Republicans have to the right. Therefore Democratic voters are dissatisfied with the “inevitable” Clinton: she’s just too centrist to be inevitable. Continue reading


Seeing Red

Of course we have to talk about the first Republican debate last week, and that means we have to discuss The Donald, and that means we have to talk about


(Male readers have permission to leave the room, gibbering.) I agree that his remarks were offensive, vile, and infantile, but maybe not quite the way the commentariat and his Republican rivals see them. Continue reading