Mighty Red Pen

October 2, 2008


Well, if you’re a word nerd watching the Sarah Palin-Joe Biden vice presidential debate tonight, and you eschew the usual debate drinking games, here’s something that might amuse you: diagram Sarah Palin’s sentences.

Hat tip to Helen’s Dad, who alerted me to “Diagramming Sarah: Can Palin’s Sentences Stand Up to a Grammarian?” by Kitty Burns Florey. Florey writes:

No one but a Republican denial specialist could argue with the fact that Sarah Palin’s recent TV appearances have scaled the heights of inanity. The sentences she uttered in interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and Katie Couric seem to twitter all over the place like mourning doves frightened at the feeder. Which left me wondering: What can we learn from diagramming them?

It’s worth checking out Florey’s piece to see her attempts at diagramming such Palin sentences as this beaut: “I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people.”

In another article, “The Poetry of Sarah Palin: Recent Works by the Republican Vice Presidential Candidate,” writer Hart Seely makes poetry out of the same kind of murky syntax that Florey tries to diagram. For example:

“You Can’t Blink”

You can’t blink.
You have to be wired
In a way of being
So committed to the mission,

The mission that we’re on,
Reform of this country,
And victory in the war,
You can’t blink.

So I didn’t blink.

(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)

And somehow, it kind of works. Maybe she missed her true calling?



  1. Does Mr. MRP have any suggestions for how to incorporate body language, such as a wink, into the diagrams? ‘Cause I’m sure stumped, doggone it. Happy blogiversary!

    Comment by helen's dad — October 5, 2008 @ 9:30 am | Reply

  2. I too thought the Sarah Palin poetry worked — sort of. I just had to pretend it was written by an iconoclast who was trying to skewer the Big Brother-ness of government. Then it almost became a thing of beauty.

    Comment by Editrix — October 9, 2008 @ 11:49 am | Reply

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