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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gosh darnit, did the Globe forget Romney's Mormon?

Good grief. The Boston Globe analyzes Mitt Romney's "Leave It to Beaver" language in a front-page story without raising the most plausible explanation for why Romney says things like, "Holy Moly!," "O grunt!," and "Darn." Say, isn't Romney somewhat famously LDS? If there's something you're unlikely to encounter on the lips of a pious Mormon, it's profanity. I'd attribute these verbal tics to the religious subculture in which he grew up and in which he has remained active.

Granted, Romney didn't grow up in Utah, as I did, but I'm strongly inclined to think that he comes by his G-rated vocabulary honestly. (I've never shaken the habit myself, despite my long years of heresy. Mrs Philocrites especially likes to tell the story of the winter morning when I looked outside, saw the heavy snowfall, and passionately exclaimed, "Good grief!" She just about died laughing.) So I'm going to say with some confidence that this liberal line on Romney doesn't wash:

Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California at Berkeley and author of "Talking Right," a study of how conservatives use language to defeat liberals, said he does not buy the "Happy Days" presentation.

"He's the son of a governor who went to Harvard Law and Harvard Business School, who ran a leveraged buyout firm — who talks like Jimmy Stewart," he said.

"It's condescending, because it implies listeners are going to be taken in by that sort of thing. It doesn't impute a very high level of intelligence to Republican voters."

Does Romney come across as a goody-two-shoes? Sure. But I don't think it's quite as calculated as Nunberg would have it. I think it's just his Mormonism. (Random tidbit: Jimmy Stewart left his papers to BYU, the Mormon university Romney attended.)

I left Mormonism 18 years ago, but I still can't bring myself to swear in even the most TV-friendly ways. Darn it.

("Life with Romney: Gee whiz rules," Lisa Wangness, Boston Globe 8.19.07)

Copyright © 2007 by Philocrites | Posted 19 August 2007 at 9:52 PM

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August 20, 2007 03:33 AM | Permalink for this comment

Yes, there is no need to make up phony criticisms of the neo-cons -- there's plenty of real stuff to criticize. On the other hand, they are spreading the meme that Edwards sounds fake. Maybe it's retribution?


August 20, 2007 09:22 AM | Permalink for this comment

I had a Mormon boss who once on a rough day swept into his office, pounded both fists on his desk and cried out in a primal scream sort of voice:


The other non-LDS employee and I made it out to my car and shut the door before the laughter started, but it went on for quite a while.


Dudley Jones:

August 20, 2007 11:52 AM | Permalink for this comment

If I were talking to a politian I would not take it as a compliment if she dropped an f-bomb on me.


August 20, 2007 07:56 PM | Permalink for this comment

This is a funny criticism of Mitt Romney. But I think the author of this article has it right.... this is part of Romney's Mormon heritage showing through. This is the real thing!

I totally love the Fiddlesticks post above. Thanks for sharing it! I am still giggling!


August 20, 2007 09:00 PM | Permalink for this comment

I agree with Philocrites. My experience indicates that if you do not learn to swear when you are little, it is hard to force yourself to swear when you get older. Besides, swearing conveys passion but nothing intelligent. Perhaps Mitt Romney's success in business is supported by his use of language. You really need to contend with data, the law, and corporate objectives. A boardroom filled with swearing has lost precious time for improving the corporation.


August 20, 2007 10:15 PM | Permalink for this comment

Norm, it takes just as much time to say "Shucks!" as to say "Shit!," so I doubt that Romney is saving corporate time by not swearing. And oodles of his friends among the corporate elite certainly do manage to rake in the millions while being vulgar, so wholesomeness doesn't seem to be required for financial success.

Stephen Merino:

August 21, 2007 01:26 AM | Permalink for this comment

I also grew up Mormon and I haven't been able to shake the clean-mouth habit, either. It's amazing. Sometimes I just want to swear but just can't. But I'm not ashamed of it, and have no plans to fight the habit too hard.


August 21, 2007 02:59 PM | Permalink for this comment

I'm trying to break my swearing habits -- I get into patterns of language depending on who I'm around, and they can be really hard to break later. But, yeah, Romney sounds like any other Mormon I've known.

I find it entertaining that this post on Romney has a John McCain ad showing up on the sidebar. ;-)


August 23, 2007 03:42 PM | Permalink for this comment

As a kid who was raised not to even say "crap" or "fart," much less "shit" (sorry for all the scatology), I found that when I broke the taboo against swearing it was quite gratifying, especially when angry. So while swearing in front of folks who are not family or good friends doesn't come easy and I rarely do it, when I'm angry in my own house and my guard is down my wife and kids hear some pretty bad stuff (and I'm usually ashemed of it later). It's something I'm working on.

But the key is "when the guard is down." I suspect for most presidential candidates it's a matter of putting on the best face. You're more likely to offend someone by swearing than by not swearing, and why take the chance in primary season? I thought it was quite strange when Kerry dropped the f-word in an interview with Rolling Stone; what did he think he would gain from that? If he did it without thinking, then that reflects something strange about his character; on the other hand, if it was a calculated effort to appear cool, I don't think it gained him any votes.

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