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Dialectics of dialect

Robin Lakoff, professor emerita of linguistics | September 19, 2014

There are many interesting tales to tell about the current NFL scandals; many have been told, eloquently and well. But some seemingly minor points have been overlooked, and should not be, especially as their understanding extends well beyond the range of the NFL. When Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings running back, was questioned about his … Continue reading »

The ever-fascinating Christie

Robin Lakoff, professor emerita of linguistics | January 15, 2014

The most interesting thing about Chris Christie’s apology is that it was no apology. An apology is a speech act – an utterance that is in some way world-changing. Apologies change the world by reversing the power of speaker and addressee: the speaker puts himself intentionally in a one-down position as a result of actions … Continue reading »

Was debate #1 a Pyrrhic victory?

Robin Lakoff, professor emerita of linguistics | October 4, 2012

Debate 1 is over, and the pundits have declared Mitt Romney the victor. The only remaining question is: was his victory overwhelming, or did Romney only win because Obama didn’t? That is today’s story. But will it be the way we tell it after November 7? On the surface it seems set in stone: Romney … Continue reading »

Gaffology 101

Robin Lakoff, professor emerita of linguistics | September 16, 2012

The world of the early twenty-first century is one divided by factionalism and suspicion, and connected by new channels of communication that are uneditable, instantaneous, and anonymous. Therefore the most important thing a modern president must know in order to be effective is how to use language,  both interpretively and actively, both domestically and globally. … Continue reading »

Are Tea Party candidates channeling Humpty Dumbty?

Robin Lakoff, professor emerita of linguistics | August 16, 2011

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make a word mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.” President Obama has been criticized by both left and right for poor communication. That may be true, but the fault lies less with the president … Continue reading »

American exceptionalism

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | April 21, 2011

Ending his April 5th House floor presentation of the largest proposed cutback of government spending in history, Congressman Paul Ryan declared, “It is now up to all of us to keep America exceptional.” It was the third time Ryan invoked American exceptionalism in his speech. The idea of exceptionalism has surfaced with some energy recently. … Continue reading »

The President’s speech

Robin Lakoff, professor emerita of linguistics | January 26, 2011

I thought President Obama’s State of the Union address was a very good speech: well written and well-delivered. It remains to be seen, of course, whether it will have its intended effect or indeed any effect; but State of the Union speeches seldom have lasting political effects. The “prom night” seating arrangement may well have … Continue reading »

The “new centrism” and its discontents

George Lakoff, professor of linguistics | January 25, 2011

There is no ideology of the “center.” What is called a “centrist” or a “moderate” is actually very different — a bi-conceptual, someone who is conservative on some issues and progressive on others, in many, many possible combinations. Why does this matter? From the perspective of how the brain works, the distinction is crucial. Because … Continue reading »

Let Obama be Obama

Robin Lakoff, professor emerita of linguistics | June 8, 2010

In the wake of the Gulf oil tragedy, almost as much attention has been given to the President’s demeanor as to the spill itself. The punditry has been offering advice: show anger, get in BP’s face, shake a moralizing finger, share the pain. Two questions arise in response to these suggestions. First, why are so … Continue reading »