April 22, 2004

Sauce for the gander

Eugene Volokh has found some transcripts of Jacob Weisberg speaking extemporaneously, and given him a small dose of his own "Bushism of the day" medicine.

A few months ago, I pointed out that

You can make any public figure sound like a boob, if you record everything he says and set hundreds of hostile observers to combing the transcripts for disfluencies, malapropisms, word formation errors and examples of non-standard pronunciation or usage. It's even easier if the critics use anecdotes based on the perceptions and verbal memories of equally hostile listeners.

At the time, I looked around on the web for transcripts of Weisberg interviews, and came up empty. So I suggested this:

I'll buy dinner for Jacob Weisberg, if he'll let me record a couple of hours of convivial conversation..., and then examine the transcripts carefully for Weisbergisms ...

EV looked harder, or more cleverly, and found five pieces of evidence that Mr. Weisberg is given to using "you know" as a hedging pause filler. As EV then says:

Our oral comments are full of this sort of filler, and of grammar and usage errors of various sorts. Nearly anyone who has read a transcript of his own comments can tell you that.

But given that articulate, thoughtful people like Weisberg say these sorts of things, where's the humor, the aptness, or anything else in finding instances of Bush doing the same?

It would be even better to go through some recordings, since transcripts always underestimate the degree of disfluency.

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 22, 2004 09:28 PM