Wednesday, July 07, 2004

veeps, Condi, and language-learning skills

Instapundit makes a prediction:
Bush will drop Cheney from the ticket, and replace him with someone more exciting, and with less baggage -- think John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell, or, my favorite, Condi Rice.
The depressing thing about this list is that there isn't one real conservative on it. The only one on the list that wouldn't actually hurt Bush with conservatives is Condi Rice, and she's marginal. Can Bush afford to alienate his base even further, picking a VP that appeals to a center that his opponent is abandoning anyway?

Of course Condi has a big problem as the VP pick --the verbal slip where she referred to Bush as "my husband". The Democrat-controlled press will make a huge scandal out of this if she is selected as the VP candidate. It's ironic because what that verbal slip really shows is how close Condi is with Mrs. Bush.

Freudian slips --verbal errors that reveal hidden thoughts-- are extremely rare in real life (as opposed to sitcoms). Copycat slips are far more common. We continue learning language our whole life. This is largely an unconscious process. We hear an interesting turn of phrase, and the next time we need to say something similar, that turn of phrase just pops out of our mouth with no conscious thought. Or, we hear constant repetition of a certain phrase in a certain context, and find ourselves using the same phrase without knowing it. You can see this when a kid accidentally uses profanity in front of his mother because he hears his father using it all the time. He knew better, but it just popped out of his speech production center without thought. You can see it when a kid accidentally calls his friend's mother "mom". He hears his friend calling her that, and it lodges somewhere inside his head. You can hear it when a California Vice Governor uses the n-word by accident. He knew better, but he hangs around with people who use the word and it caught him up.

This is likely what happened to Condoleezza Rice. She spends a lot of time with Laura Bush. Laura Bush calls George "my husband" frequently. It got lodged in Condi's speech production center and slipped out at the wrong time. Yes, it's a clue to an unconscious process, but not to Condi's fantasy life. It's just a minor malfunction of our normal language-learning process.

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