Obama is extremely eloquent but...

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I have long noticed Barack Obama's tendency to use 'is is' constructions that sound grammatically incorrect to me.  And if you are going to save any money through what Governor Romney's proposing
uh, what has to happen is, is that the money has to come from somewhere.
, for example.  ...what has to happen is that the money... sounds grammatically correct, but the first sentence does not.

 

I have not had a chance to analyze it in any detail, but I did find this blog post which does quite a bit of analysis: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4269.  Any thoughts?

 

To be honest, I almost always get goosebumps when listening to Obama's oratory.  I am a big fan.  But this grammar issue has long bugged me.

edited Jan 13 '13 at 13:31 Shawn Mooney Expert

3 answers


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I can't say that I have noticed that.  Some people say "um" or similar when they pause.  I guess Obama repeats "is" when he pauses.  I am sure he wouldn't write it that way, and I assume it isn't on his teleprompter either. At least he can pronounce "nuclear" properly. 

link comment answered Jan 13 '13 at 14:43 Patty T Grammarly Fellow
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That's what I though at first, too, Patty. After reading Shawn's link, I see the context he's talking about. Something along the lines of:

'What the plan is, is that we will...'

I don't know if he would write this way, and it may be more of a hesitation in speech than a grammatical construct. Works for me either way, too.

link comment answered Jan 13 '13 at 15:00 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow
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Thanks for the comments, guys.

 

What the plan is, is that we will... is not incorrect. I didn't know the terminology for this kind of sentence, but according to that blog post it's called a WH-cleft or pseudo-cleft sentence and it is grammatically correct, albeit strange-sounding.

 

The grammatical mistake that Obama often makes is with sentences like this: Well, the truth of the matter is, is that that's exactly what we've done.  The blog post terms this a reduplicative copula, and I have heard Obama make this mistake frequently, for years.

 

It may well be an error caused by pausing and thinking about what he's going to say next; I certainly don't remember ever hearing him say it during a scripted speech.

link comment answered Jan 14 '13 at 06:47 Shawn Mooney Expert

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