Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Talking points

To follow up on the last blog about Caroline Kennedy and the voracious press corps, consider what The Associated Press is reporting this afternoon about her overuse of the phrase, "you know ...":

"NEW YORK (AP) — If Caroline Kennedy had, you know, only known.

"Tracking the would-be New York senator's verbal tics has become a political parlor game in the days since she gave her first round of in-depth interviews, even spawning a hip-hop-style mash-up online blending her 'you knows' with President-elect Barack Obama's 'uhs.'

"Such conversational fillers are, of course, as common as, like, speech itself. But the buzz about Kennedy's 'you knows' illustrates how problematic a few extraneous syllables can be for a public figure, especially in an era when today's verbal foible is tomorrow's viral video.

"'It really did a huge disservice to her,' said communications training coach Matt Eventoff, a partner in Princeton Public Speaking in Princeton, N.J. Rather than focusing on Kennedy's views, he said, 'people are going to spend time deconstructing the 'you knows.'

"Deconstruct they have, on newsprint, blogs and YouTube, where the 'Kennedy Obama UmYouKnow Remix' can be found alongside 'The More You Know: Caroline Kennedy.' The latter counts — with a buzzer — 30 'you knows' in 147 seconds of excerpts from an interview with The Associated Press.

"Bloggers have torn into President John F. Kennedy's Harvard- and Columbia-educated daughter for such remarks as: 'You know, I think, really, um, this is sort of a unique moment, both in our, you know, in our country's history and in, you know, my own life, and, um, you know, we are facing, you know, unbelievable challenges.'

"The 'you knows' have punctuated a rocky media rollout for the Democratic scion, who emerged from a lifetime of closely guarded privacy to seek appointment to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate seat. If Clinton is confirmed as Obama's secretary of state, as expected, Democratic Gov. David Paterson will choose her successor.

"Kennedy, 51, has never held public office and has faced questions about her preparedness for the Senate. She has pointed to her experience as a lawyer, education advocate and author of books on constitutional law and other subjects, as well as her family's long history of public service.

"A Kennedy spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday but told the Daily News on Monday: 'Caroline has acknowledged that she hasn't mastered the art of the political sound bite, but if Governor Paterson appoints her, she'll fight her heart out to make sure New York families have their voices heard in Washington.'"

Most of us have speech quirks of our own. But most of us aren't trying to get appointed to the Senate while the national media hangs on your every word.
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