The orator's art
As you prepare yourself to be swayed by President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural address next week and the inevitable encomiums to follow, do not neglect the commentary on the efforts of the Republic’s previous statesmen.
“Gamalielese,” written in 1921 on the inauguration of President Warren G. Harding, makes a present to the reader of some of H.L. Mencken’s most gorgeous remarks on political oratory. One choice morsel:
“[H]e writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean-soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm (I was about to write abscess!) of pish, and crawls insanely to the topmost pinnacle of posh.”
* The essay was reprinted in the 1956 collection, A Carnival of Buncombe, now to be found in the Google Books electronic version, pages 41-45.