The Trouble with “Sarah” and Other “Terms of Endearment”

     Yup, knew it would happen.   Saw it happen too, in a pretty big, but not a very pretty, headline in an “Observer”/AP story a few days ago.

     Can’t do much about it, though, except to utter another squawk.

      The headline was about Charles Gibson of ABC’s interview with Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, now the running mate with Republican Presidential Candidate,  Arizona Senator John McCain.

       The headline? Something on the order of “First Interview with Sarah.”

       Knew it would happen but didn’t think it would be this soon.

About twenty-five years ago, if memory serves (and sometimes it double faults) the Fayetteville daily (which provides me and others a blog site to utter our frequent squawks) established, or probably only firmed up, guidelines for referring to the people in its news stories. 

        The guidelines went something like this:  (1) when a person is being referred to in a news story, his or her full name (preceded by title or other designation, if relevant) will be fully given in the first reference,  such as “Chairman John David Doe.”   Thereafter the last name of the person will, as is appropriate, be referred to only by a last name and the indication “Mr., Miss, Mrs.” or by a title, if the person’s professional standing is relevant to the story,  such as the “Reverend Doe” or “Dr. Doe” or “Senator Doe,” and so on.

       That policy did not stay in effect very long, given the manner and the extent to which our American media have come to feast upon the “celebrity.”

     How do we know when a person has reached the august level of celebrityhood?  When the media refers to the person by only his or her first name, such as Madonna, Cher,  Prince, Kobe, Britney, Paris, Bill and Hil,  O.J., and so on.  Even more endearing it is when a nickname alone is used.  “Dubya” suggests, for instance, an intimate (though hardly friendly) relationship.

        So,  when Governor Palin began to be referred to as “Sarah” by itself, she began to be brought down to our common state rather than continuing to be dignified by at least her title or perhaps “Ms. Palin” or “Mrs. Palin” (depending upon what your position is on the delicate topic of “political correctness”). 

     Doesn’t it seem a bit odd, though, that the “drive-by media” (as a certain radio talk show host works to endear our news outlets to us) have not yet begun to refer to the other three major party candidates as respectively (though not respectfully) “John,”  “Joe,” or even “Barack,”  the most media-attentive of the four candidates?

Why just “Sarah”?

Tell me about it.

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10 Responses to “The Trouble with “Sarah” and Other “Terms of Endearment””

  1. Linda Devore Says:

    One of a kind.

  2. Frank B Maness,Jr. Says:

    Professor,

    One has arrived when most of the world know exactly who the reference is when only a frist name IS DROPPED on us. A person has been to deep in the cave if Sarah don’t ring a bell. Not to say it’s proper but this flash in the pan journalism draws readers attention so folks will actually read what is written. It is kind of a down to earth approach and less formal appeal to have a more personal feeling. Not saying that is the case with Sarah being who she appears to be. Don’t walk with your head looking up at the star you just might fall in a hole. Don’t get caught up in a lot of fuss. Be careful who you trust. Much is at state and it’s to the point we can’t make a mistake. A lot can happen in 4 years and hopefully it will be good stuff.

  3. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Linda: The prof would have used the term “sie generis” lol.

    Frank: I owe you breakfast!

    Prof: I found McCain to be rather dull right up to the point he announced his VP pick “Sarah”. The media know a celebrity when they see one! I have to give McCain credit for a masterful political stroke!

  4. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Linda: The prof would have used the term “sui generis” lol.

    Frank: I owe you breakfast!

    Prof: I found McCain to be rather dull right up to the point he announced his VP pick “Sarah”. The media know a celebrity when they see one! I have to give McCain credit for a masterful political stroke!

  5. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Sorry about the double post. I tried to correct my Latin spelling before submitting.

    (although ‘sie generis’ probably means something in German!)

  6. raymond rundus Says:

    I already bought Frank breakfast. Get in line!

    RJR

  7. Eric Smith Says:

    My guess is the Republicans are trying several different means of making Palin seem “homey” and create a sense of friendly intimacy among American voters.

    Here’s hoping like Hell that it doesn’t work.

  8. Raymond Rundus Says:

    Well, we pretty well agree that one of the great distinctions we can earn as members of Western civilization, or perhaps just “human civilization,” is become recognized as “sui generis”; that is, so distinctive in our fame and our attainments that we might be immediately recognized by our last names: Mention “Einstein” or “Hitler” or “Columbus” or “Schwarzenegger” or “Thatcher” or “Galileo” and we pretty well know who is meant.

    Even more indicative of being one of a kind as a celebrity in our American culture is to be immediately recognized by our first names: “Madonna,” “Cher,” “Brittany,” “Arnold,” “Hillary,” “Saddam,” “Elvis,” and so on. Puts these folks nearly on the same level as “Buddha,” “Jesus,” “John Paul II,” “Geronimo,” and so on.

    Interesting it was to see how forms of address were bandied about last night on the gripping “Vice-Presidential Candidates” debate:
    Moderator Gwen Ifill was careful to refer to the Democratic candidate as “Senator” and the Republican candidate as “Governor.” Governor Palin was respectful in referring to her opponent as “Senator” or “Senator Biden,” but never as “Joe.” And, as earlier predicted, Senator Biden was careful not to refer to nor to address his opponent as “Sarah.” Ironically, though (at least it seemed so to me), he consistently referred to the Moderator as “Gwen” and to his Senate colleague and the Republican Presidential candidate as “John.”

    What do you make of all this?

    RJR

  9. Eric Smith Says:

    Biden is refusing to play into the GOP’s hands on this “folksifying” of Sarah Palin.

  10. Raymond Rundus Says:

    I may owe an apology and a correction to my comments about Governor Palin’s addressing of and to Senator Biden. I’ve been informed that she did, at least once, use Biden’s first name at least once, echoing Ronald Reagan in saying, “There you go again, Joe.”
    Part of Ms. Palin’s charm to those of us familiar with the Plains and the Midwest and perhaps even the far West and Alaska is her “folksiness,” somewhat more acceptable that perhaps another political leader’s use of “truthiness.”
    Examples are such usages are “you betcha” and “darn right.” She has not used publicly during her campaign appearances, but may be familiar with the description of a boondoggle used, as I recall in my own Kansas community, by a lady who would not wish to be regarded as “common” or, worse, “vulgar.” This was why she preferred to say something like, “Aren’t we in a mell of a hess, though?”
    RJR

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