September 27, 2004

Richard Johnson is sort of losing his mind

Radosh.net Heartland correspondent Kevin Guilfoile writes in about the following Page Six item.

John Kerry had better watch his tongue — it's starting to betray his elitist leanings. The other day, he said, "This president sort of wandered back." Language mavens say the use of "sort of" as an adverb is a subtle indicator of upper-class origins or aspirations. You won't catch any good ol' boys in those vital swing states saying "sort of."

Says Kevin: "I use 'sort of' as an adverb all the time, as did everyone I grew up with in rural upstate New York. I assure you few of us were ever mistaken for upper class elites when we bought tubesocks at the Farm and Home Bargain Center and Wolverine boots at the Agway."

It didn't sound right to me either -- were they perhaps thinking of "sort of" meaning "type of"? -- so I ran the accusation by Jesse Sheidlower, North American editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Here's what he had to say.

"I've looked at this, and discussed it with various language mavens of my acquaintance (you know, the type who do things like chair the linguistics departments at prominent universities), and our general conclusion is that the Post is on crack.There have certainly been objections to sort of as being too colloquial (or too American, etc.), but the opposite? No idea what they're talking about."

How about it, Johnson? Are you prepared to reveal your alleged maven source? If his name rhymes with Phil Phurkett, I have some bad news for you.

BTW, Kevin also notes that the unusual inclusion of people with upper-class "aspirations." Isn't that what Murdoch news outlets usually call "the American dream"? Does the Post believe in class warfare all of a sudden?

Posted by Daniel Radosh


That is brilliant. Thanks for doing the research.

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