Thursday, July 29, 2004

112 Words Per Sentence?

From an AP release:

"So tonight, in the city where America's freedom began, only a few blocks from where the sons and daughters of liberty gave birth to our nation, here tonight, on behalf of a new birth of freedom, on behalf of the middle class who deserve a champion and those struggling to join it who deserve a fair shot, for the brave men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day and the families who pray for their return, for all those who believe our best days are ahead of us, for all of you, with great faith in the American people, I accept your nomination for president of the United States."


This is what Kerry spent days writing out longhand, and what wunderkind Bob Shrum has endorsed: a sentence with one-hundred-twelve words that takes up seven lines of type.

This style of oratory had quite a run--200 B.C. to A.D. 1880.  Around that time populism and the general suffrage came to mean speechifying like Cato showed you were out of touch with the common man.

Here's what Lincoln was capable of saying in 119 words:
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth.

Unfair comparison? Notice the cribbed line in bold.

The point isn't that Senator Kerry is no President Lincoln--few are, that's why Lincoln has such a reputation.  If his natural style--and mine--is to stack sentences, so be it.  But it's bad oratory, and using Lincoln invites a comparison which can only be unflattering. 

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