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Retake the oath? – Dust yourself off …

When the most powerful man on the planet takes office and by doing so becomes just that (most powerful), how could it not draw all sorts of commentary from all sides. I’ll restrict myself to what one can learn from the pages of the Language Log.
There is an interesting discussion on the flub Obama, or rather Chief Justice John Roberts, committed during the oath of office in yesterday’s inauguration. The Language Log has an article by Benjamin Zimmer that analyses the linguistic problem: “Adverbial placement in the oath flub”. This is preceded by Bill Poser’s posting on how American presidents are counted: The error in Obama’s inauguration speech (a minor point, as I see it, but still interesting).
The “oath flub” could actually lead to some people doubting the legal basis of Obama’s presidency, so experts say Obama should retake the oath – an article (San Francisco Chronicle) that one of the LL updates (in the Zimmer post) kindly points us to.
Mark Liberman analyses the content of Obama’s inauguration speech in his posting “A new era of responsibility?”. The gist of what Obama said about international relations, Liberman writes, was “the repudiation of perceived mistakes of the previous administration, framed as restoration of traditional American values, and tempered by some stern glances in the direction of hostile nations and groups”. On the domestic side, Obama’s promise to tackle all the problems America is facing, and his appeal to his citizens’ good will and energy sound a lot like what a former community organizer would be likely to say, Liberman notes, adding: “If President Obama makes this work, then phrases like “a new era of responsibility” and “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America” may be remembered in the way that President Kennedy’s “Ask not” trope has been.”
This last quotation – the dusting-off bit – is explained in yet another informative LL posting. This one, by Geoff Nunberg (Starting all over again), identifies it as an “allusion to Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields’s “Start All Over Again,” the anthem to pluck and resilience that Fred and Ginger sang in the 1936 Swingtime“. And because it’s so … cute, let’s have it here, too. Enjoy.

Erm … and one last thing: If you’re about to analyse Obama’s inauguration speech, you may want to check up on your knowledge of polyptoton (thanks, Prof. Nunberg).

2 comments to Retake the oath? – Dust yourself off …