Obama "clinging" to his words

How gratifying to wake up and find someone at the New York Times finds Barack Obama’s choice of the word “cling” as telling as I do (see yesterday’s post). Dan Schnur writes an opinion titled Right Fight, Wrong Word in which he says that although political pundits, not to mention the Clinton campaign, have made much of Obama’s use of the word “bitter,” that “cling” is the real problem.

Since this is a blog about language, what I find interesting is how revealing a word choice can be. We have millions of words to choose from in our daily speech and while some have similar definitions, the connotation often tells us more. Connotation is the suggestion of meaning beyond the thing a word explicitly describes. I think we usually experience the hidden meaning in people’s speech in a subconscious way, leaving us with an impression of a person. Here, in Obama’s infamous sentence, his meaning isn’t very hidden at all.

One comment

  • B Obama
    April 16, 2008 - 9:23 am | Permalink

    I am not an elitist. Really. Why would you even think that? Just because I was editor of the Harvard Law Review? And can appear holier than thou at times? Puh-leeze! It’s not my fault I’m bright.

    Look, I’ve admitted that I misspoke and could have used some other words. I say so many of them that the law of averages dictates that some of my choices will be ill-advised.

    Please forgive me.

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