“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.”