I knew I wasn’t crazy referring to Sarah Palin the other day as Marge Gunderson. When pundits have remarked that Palin sounds like “one of us,” I’ve thought that this is particularly true for those of us from Minnesota – regardless of whether we agree with her on policy. I’m talking about the way she talks.
Here’s a news flash for you: Chicagoans have their dese, dems and dose, we have our betchas and darn tootins. I have friends and relatives who speak this way, and it always cracks me up. For some reason I guess I was largely immune.
So the notion some of my friends have that Palin’s folksy vernacular is a put-on escapes me. If they really think she’s such a dummy – and most of them do – than how would she be brilliant enough to channel Meryl Streep on the national stage without missing a beat?
In the New York Times on Saturday, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker explains it all.
“The second myth about Ms. Palin is that her accent is contrived, or that it reveals laziness or ignorance on her part,” Pinker wrote. “Certainly, Ms. Palin cranked the folksiness dial to 11 during the debate; she dropped more g’s, reverted to ‘nucular’ after being teleprompted during the Republican National Convention to pronounce it ‘new-clear,’ and she salted her speech with cutesy near profanities like ‘darn,’ ‘heck’ and ‘doggone.’
“But it would be unfair to question the authenticity of her accent or to use it as a measure of her intellect or sophistication. The dialect is certainly for real. Listeners who hear the Minnewegian sounds of the characters from Fargo when the listen to Ms. Palin are on to something: the Matanuska-Susitna Valley in Alaska, where she grew up, was settled by farmers from Minnesota during the Depression.”
Pinker also explains why pronouncing nuclear “nucular” “is not a sign of ignorance.” (Paging Eric Zorn and Maureen Dowd!) The problem with elitists is that they always assume they are the elite – even when their ignorance is showing.