Well, she’s the expert . . .

From Meet the Press, Doris Kearns Goodwin writes:

Well, look, just as these politicians on the campaign trail are borrowing and absorbing patterns and evolving, so too speechwriters. They look at the best speeches in history. It’s inevitable that those patterns are going to be get in their heads. And you know, we can’t make too much of this. This is the spoken word. It’s different from the written word, and it becomes part of what’s in there. As you said, there’s not that much in their heads anymore that’s coming in that’s new. So all that’s in there is what was there before.

7 thoughts on “Well, she’s the expert . . .

  1. I remember someone — I think it was Steven Pinker — commenting on Watergate. He said something like "When transcripts of the Oval Office Tapes became public, people were shocked. Not by the fact that Nixon swore like a sailor, but by the fact that he seemed almost completely incoherent." (That's my paraphrase, I don't remember Pinker's exact quote, or indeed whether it was Pinker). Whoever-it-was went on to say that normal speech isn't anything like it's represented in books, it's full of poor grammar and half-completed sentences and so on. So, let's give Doris a break.

    The nice thing about that Meet The Press transcipt is the Churchill quote about what would happen if Hitler invaded Hell. I don't care what other people say, I say Churchill knew how to turn a phrase.

  2. Jeez, was I supposed to remember this from six years ago? (I don't think I've heard of Goodwin since then). Eh, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that other people remember better than me — I'm famous for having no memory.

  3. actually, Andy, she's famous for a lot of other things, too. The plagiarism was sort-of late career. Amazingly, it appears that she (like Joe Biden, mentioned in the Times article on this issue on Sunday) hasn't been hurt by it.

  4. Phil, if you ever locate the source you refer to, please post it. I'd love to know more about how and why people generate faults in their ad libbed speech.

  5. One of the great wonders of the internet is that every live page is a potential discussion in progress, unbounded by time, an eternal present. Part of me wonders if Andrew Gelman's comment displays yesterday's date due to editing or some quirk of software, but I much prefer the notion that he was thinking about the subject off and on for two years before deciding to post a link to a decade-old article transcribing a 45-year-old broadcast. And that "speaking of" is a suitable way of raising the subject after two years.

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