Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Palin Has Been Good for My Vocabulary

Sarah Palin, with her "g"-dropping and "you betcha" kind of talk, has been accused of dumbing down the American (and consequently, the Canadian) language. On the contrary, my obsession (as Todd calls it) with reading about all things Palin has improved my vocabulary greatly.

The first word I learned, immediately after Palin was chosen as John McCain's running mate, was "gubernatorial", meaning "of or relating to a governor", as in "Palin's gubernatorial campaign". Even my very literate friend Fei Min did not know this one. Am I the only one that loves saying this word over and over? It just rolls off the tongue so smoothly.

Then, in reading Christopher Buckley's now famous endorsement of Barrack Obama, which isn't specifically about Palin but does have a few references to her (including the oft-used line, "What on earth can he have been thinking?"), I encountered and had to look up, "rara avis", the Latin equivalent of "rare bird", which I do know in English.

The word "gravitas" is not new to me, but it's never been part of my everyday vocabulary. However, it's been used so often and in so many contexts (referring to candidates, journalists, advisors, Joes, etc., both possessing and lacking) that I now feel quite comfortable popping it into ordinary conversation.

Then there's the word "mavericky". This word is not in my Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, 4th Ed., so it can't be a real word. All the same, I'm grateful to Saturday Night Live and Tiny Fey for popularizing it, as it's such a great adjective. Maybe I will petition to have it included in the 5th edition of the OSPD.

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