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Palinism of the Day: Defending the Verbage from Unfair Attacks

“The fundamentals of our economy are strong.” — John McCain, September 15 2008

After millions of Americans responded with incredulity to John McCain’s blase attitude, Sarah Palin tried to defend her new mentor in the following way last night:

It was an unfair attack on the verbage Senator McCain chose to use…. that was an unfair attack there, again, based on verbage that John McCain had used.

“Verbage?” Verbage is not a word. If it were a word, it would refer to the use of verbs, and Sarah Palin’s use of the word “verbage” doesn’t make any sense in that context: nobody’s attacking John McCain for his use of the verb “to be,” unless perhaps the implied criticism is that John McCain should have used the past tense “were” rather than the present tense “are.” A hunch tells me that’s not what Sarah Palin had in mind.

Perhaps Sarah Palin was trying to say “verbiage” and dropped a vowel. This is a classic mistake made by people who don’t read very much. People who don’t read often don’t know how to spell words, and so when they hear a word spoken they’ll be more likely to pass it on with a mispronunciation. See Bush, George W.

But even if Sarah Palin was trying in her clumsy way to utter the word “verbiage,” it’s an inappropriate word choice. “Verbiage” is defined by Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary as “The use of many words without necessity, or with little sense; a superabundance of words; verbosity; wordiness.” Did Sarah Palin really mean to say that her running mate is prone to “the use of many words without necessity, or with little sense?” Probably not. She’s just trying to adding pretense by showing off her vocabulary. Unfortunately, “verbiage” isn’t really in her vocabulary, since she understands neither what the word means nor how it is spelled. You might say that Sarah Palin was suffering from an excess of verbiage in her use of words like “verbage.”

I’m reminded of Dan Quayle’s statement of old that “Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things.”

You don’t want to head further down the Quayle path, do you, Ms. Palin? Next time, try using a small word you actually understand, like “words.”

13 thoughts on “Palinism of the Day: Defending the Verbage from Unfair Attacks”

  1. Sam says:

    So…verbage is at the definition of the user..or the listener….if the message is something you can’t touch attack the way it’s said…well, using that rule, we’ll have tons of fun with Biden…paying Taxes is Patriotic….yes sir….so when will we see Bidenisms? Soon I hope…..

  2. Jim says:

    I attacked the mispronunciation of the word and the substantive absurdity of what she was saying.

    Paying taxes is patriotic, and if you look around this website you’ll find I have launched plenty of criticism toward Joseph Biden.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Talking-point vomiters like our friend Sam, above, appear poised to start resorting to schoolyard taunts to make their points.

    Well, nanny nanny poo poo, Sam! I know you are, but what are we?

    See? Makes about as much sense, dunnit?

  4. leorising says:

    Comment #3 was mine! Sorry, I was busy trying to drown out these whiny babies…

    “Don’t tax my profits! Don’t let my multi $M fail! Don’t make me answer this subpoena! Privatize profits, socialize losses! FEMA, who?”

    Anyway, yeah. #3’s mine. ^_^

  5. minorcan says:

    Well yes “verbage” is a word- sort of.
    The urban dictionary says it’s a deliberate misspelling of the word “verbiage”
    intended to convey the meaning that you are calling one’s speech “garbage”.
    So in essence, Palin was calling McCain Speak “trash talk”.
    Another Freudian slip?

  6. pianofan says:

    I had the same reaction as Jim to this Palin story – Palin must not read much. When people who don’t read much are trying to impress, they use vocabulary that’s over their heads and, more often than not, butcher the pronunciation. Palin will probably be doing this a lot in days to come. Maybe she’ll prove to be even more entertaining than W.

  7. The Sanitary Engineer aka The Garbageman says:

    I’ve an idea that our “future vice president” Ms. Palin had merely “misspoken” when she had said “verbage” when she had meant to refer to the product which I proudly handle every weekday as a “sanitary engineer”, namely GARBAGE.

    Thus, I’m sure Ms. Palin had meant to say, “It was an unfair attack on the garbage Senator McCain chose to use…. that was an unfair attack there, again, based on garbage that John McCain had used.”

  8. Sam says:

    Ah yes…so good pronunciation is better than any experience…so Obama will do well…telepromter and all…..

    So…where are the Bidenisms?

  9. Jim says:

    Go ahead and try to minimize, Sam, but as I wrote it’s not just a matter of mispronunciation. Even giving her the benefit of the doubt and supposing she was trying to say an actual word, the meaning of that actual word in the context of what she said more than once just doesn’t make sense. Conclusion: Sarah Palin doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

  10. Darebrit says:

    There. And I thought that VERBAGE was vegetarian leftovers. Go

  11. Tom Hite says:

    If this discussion weren’t so politically breathless, the blogger and follow on language scholars might have actually used a dictionary to look up verbiage…

    Well, Ok, I’ll do it for you:


    Main Entry:
    ?v?r-b?-ij also -bij

    Please note that there are two pronunciations the second being ‘ver-bij – just like Sarah Palin (and I) pronounce it.

  12. Jim says:

    If Tom weren’t so touchy, he might have actually read the whole post.

  13. john says:

    One can only agree with the fact that Sarah speaks in far too many sound bites, stitched together into barely a complete sentance.
    That said, when is anyone going to rail against the use of “pre-conditions”? Exactly what is a pre-condition? A condition before you have a condition? This term was used last night in the debate. Why cannot a politician state:”we will not meet without certain conditions being met”? Just please don’t get me started over “pre-approval.” Arrrgh!!

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