Sunday, November 30, 2014

Return of the pronouns

The shiny, jingly object that is presidential pronoun frequency never really goes away; it just gets lost behind the fridge for a while until somebody cleans. Hence its return to Drudge, courtesy of CNS News (offspring of the Media Research Center):

Leaving aside passages in which he quoted a Chicago pub owner and a letter from a citizen from Georgia, President Barack Obama used the first person singular—including the pronouns “I” and “me” and the adjective “my”—91 times in a speech he delivered in Chicago Tuesday to explain his unilateral action on immigration.

CNS has been a frequent, if irregular, contributor to the pronoun hunt, so it tends to be impressed by the raw tally, rather than the proportion:

But as often as Obama used “I,” “me” and “my” in Chicago this week, it was no match for the speech he delivered in Austin, Texas, on July 10, when he used the first person singular 199 times.

The original contribution here is the apparent effort to link pronoun counts to the content of the speech:

In that Texas speech, however, Obama had not focused specifically on immigration policy. In that speech, Obama had explained his intention to act unilaterally wherever he could.

... On Tuesday, in Chicago, Obama said: “This isn’t amnesty, or legalization, or even a pathway to citizenship--because that's not something I can do.”


Is it just going to spoil everyone's dinner to point out that this speech (one FPSP every 46 words, the penultimate graf points out) comes in lower than Obama's overall average?* Or that the frequency in the Libya speech CNS cites is even lower, at 1.8%? Or that a pronoun-count drinking game for the State of the Union address is likely to be the dullest drinking game in presidential history?

WARNING: Pres. Obama has been known to use the personal pronouns "I" or "me" more than a hundred times in a single speech. Please drink responsibly.

Anyway: No, the pronouns didn't go away after the election. Why would anyone think they would?   

 * Thanks, as always, to the indefatigable chroniclers of pronoun mania over to Language Log.

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