A friend sent me this link to a Slate article called “Diagramming Sarah” by Kitty Burns Florey. A summary just doesn’t do this story justice, so I’m going to quote a big chunk of it. Click on the link to read the full story — it is well worth your time.
“Other Palinisms are not so tractable. From the Charlie Gibson interview:
I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people.
I didn’t stop to marvel at the mad thrusting of that pet political watchword “families” into the text. I just rolled up my sleeves and attempted to bring order out of the chaos:
I had to give up. This sentence is not for diagramming lightweights. If there’s anyone out there who can kick this sucker into line, I’d be delighted to hear from you. To me, it’s not English—it’s a collection of words strung together to elicit a reaction, floating ands and prepositional phrases (“with that vote of the American people”) be damned. It requires not a diagram but a selection of push buttons.”
The writer of this article, Kitty Burns Foley, is the author of Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences, a book I covet.