Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I didn't particularly like it when Slate started in with their sniggering Bushisms microcolumns. It was condescending, smug, and alienating. Now they've started in on Kerry, with a parallel Kerryisms feature. I suppose they believe that they're covering their right on this, or operating on some sort of good for the goose, good for the gander equivalency.

Well, I'm here to tell them that it flat out doesn't work. the "Bushisms" posts, though they are smug, and they are snide, bear at least a family resemblance to a species of humor. The structure is humor-like, if the joke itself is tedious and thin. The "Kerryisms" posts don't even have that going for them, if I can judge from the first offering.

The writers have decided that Kerry's amusing trait is his involved and overdecorated sense of sentence structure. They offer us a hypertextual update to the old English-Teacher standby, the diagrammed sentence, with a typical Kerry sentence, stripped down to its "plain english" meaning, with all of his subordinate clauses and rhetorical throat-clearing excised and placed in numbered notes at the foot of the page.

Does your recollection of these sentence-diagramming sessions in grade school fill you with bemused nostalgia? No, me neither. This is humor for the terminally pedantic.

I can't imagine there are that many junior-high English teachers straining at the bit for a new online humor column about sentence structure. Maybe I'm wrong, perhaps this fills an unsuspected need, an empty niche.

But I rather doubt it.

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