Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Palin and McCain"

(image from JohnMcCain.com)


(image from BarackObama.com)

Following up on a comment I made over on polyglot conspiracy, I wanted to object to criticism of Sara Palin's recent use of the NP "a Palin and McCain administration". She was criticized for putting her name first as if she was framing herself as the presidential candidate rather than the VP candidate.

My objection is linguistic. The linguistic construction used to refer to a presidential ticket is typically two last names with maybe a dash or special character separating them, and often nothing at all (see above examples), but rarely are the two names conjoined by "and". When I took a look at what Palin actually said ("a Palin and McCain administration") I felt it was perfectly acceptable for a VP candidate to refer to a hypothetical administration that way.

I take this to be roughly a NP-noun compound where the NP is made up of two conjoined names. There are surely patterns to these kind of NP-noun compounds that probably favor listing the more prominant name first, but patterns are not prescritpive rules. On the other hand, I'm sure there are prescriptive rules used by campaing staff and journalists that explicitly spell out which name comes first when referring to a presidential ticket.

Please note, I am not intending to make any sort of political statement with this post. This is intended to be primarily a linguistics blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please... really? do you think so? do you think... at all?

So you are saying if she had thought about it a little (if she could think at all) she would have said it anyway? You're saying she meant it and did not regret it, and even had a meaning-oriented reason to chose her particular order? Are you fooling yourself into saying that "Palin and McCain" means (in the regular sense of the word 'meaning', that is so much broader than linguists can accept, because they can't deal with it), that that means the same as "McCain and Palin", simply because they are both NPs?

I don't think so, and I don't think you think so. So she just said it 'wrong': not linguistically wrong, buy simply wrong. She meant something else, she could not say it in the way she, and everybody else, except maybe linguists, would recognize as correct. News for you: THAT's what the criticism is. You're too encumbered on your linguistic (?) knowledge (?) and just missed it.

Lousy linguist indeed :)

NLPers: How would you characterize your linguistics background?

That was the poll question my hero Professor Emily Bender posed on Twitter March 30th. 573 tweets later, a truly epic thread had been cre...