By These Standards, Dr. Seuss is an Idiot

“The First Lady’s speech Tuesday was written at a 12th grade level — the highest in history among the wives of presidential nominees and far above Ann Romney’s lowest mark of a 5th grade level.” [Smart Politics, via Political Wire]


Seems fitting as Ann has the same level of understanding of the world.

@ManchuCandidate: But it’s the opposite point: Clarity and effectiveness have nothing to do with syllable count. “Reading level” is a schoolmarm lie.

I’m really pissed at this one. Especially coming from a university website. Invoking “reading level” reinforces the Bigotry of Syllables.

Ernest Hemingway would also have a problem with this.

As they say in showbiz, “give the audience what they want”. Apparently what the average RNC audience wants is small words and lots of Sky Jeebus (with a side of crazy persons talking to empty chairs).

@blogenfreude: I go Full Mencken on this kind of crap.

The post itself buries a mealy mouthed exception some ways down — reading level isn’t the only quality! — but everything about it screams speciousness. It’s like the WaPo Tweet Tracker: a meaningless “statistic” that leaves you more stupid after you’ve encountered it.

The genius of American English is how it cuts to the chase. This frightens academics, since plain language exposes their paucity of ideas. We like our speech raw and naked.

Note to academics: “So it goes” is pre-school.

I’m still not sure how to put this, but reading the new collection of Pauline Kael reviews is like returning to the Modernist world I grew up in: a world of Brando and Olivier and Freud and Jung and Important Writers we’ve left behind. (I get the same feeling watching old Woody Allen movies.)

Our generational predecessors built up this Intellectual Edifice that we’ve simply walked away from. If “postmodern” means anything, it’s literally that: Whatever followed Modernism. We look back like we look back on Slab Skyscrapers: What were they thinking?

@nojo: The map is not the terrain. Pass the dutchie, OK?

But not movies.

I know. It’s usually trumped up bullshit. My point is that Mish is very articulate and intelligent (period, no bullshit racist qualifiers necessary) while Missus Mittens is a deluded nimrod with grade five view on the world and life.

@ManchuCandidate: That’s how everybody is caricaturing the story, but I fundamentally disagree with the premise. (And, dear god, imagine how it would play if the situation was reversed…)

The problem is that they’re trying to quantify qualities. You can’t compare Michelle Obama with Ann Romney without exercising judgment, which risks bias, but that’s how language works, and there’s no escaping it.

Was Michelle the more effective speaker? I would say Yes, but she had the easier task — she didn’t have to disguise herself the way Ann did. The Romneys are wealthy, this generation of Romneys always has been, and any attempt to obscure that wealth with Humble Beginnings rings false.

Americans aren’t averse to wealth — look at all those Kennedys! — but we want you to own up to what you own. Pretending otherwise disgusts us.

I’m having a great time not getting shit done today.

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