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Tuesday, 02 September, 2008

My Friends
(with comments)

Paul Collins offers his theory on why McCain can't stop saying "my friends."

John McCain's insistent recourse to "my friends" is easily the most mystifying verbal tic of any politician since Bob Dole's out-of-body presidential campaign of 1996, which featured Dole's not entirely reassuring promise that "Bob Dole is not some sort of fringe candidate." Like Dole's use of the dissociative third person-or illeism, a propensity also shared by Elmo and the Incredible Hulk-this year's obsessive invocations to friendship invite scrutiny.

He presents a nice background of presidential use of the phrase. For example, in FDR's acceptance speech, he used "my friends" 11 times.

McCain falls neatly into line: Roughly every generation since FDR, a candidate resurrects "my friends." But while used in its first few decades by good or great orators, it's notable that in the last half-century it's been exclusively resorted to by the worst orators in our presidential races.

What happened to change the phrase's status in our language after Eisenhower's 1956 speech? I have my own unprovable pet theory: It's because the following year saw The Music Man debut on Broadway. Ever since, the phrase has been irrevocably associated with old-timey con men in straw boaters: "My friends, you got trouble right here in River City!"

When McCain invokes "my friends," he's making an appeal to the old days-the really old days.


Permalink | Posted in Politics |
  1. By Snag. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @07:33am:
    He must have some friends ... he just made the cover of Time, like Obama (I haven't read the content yet).
  2. By ElMoney. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @07:41am:
    I think he uses the "my friends" phrase to stall while he collects his next thought.
  3. By Ice Giant 37. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @07:43am:
    ...since Bob Dole's out-of-body presidential campaign of 1996, which featured Dole's not entirely reassuring promise that "Bob Dole is not some sort of fringe candidate." Like Dole's use of the dissociative third person-or illeism, a propensity also shared by Elmo and the Incredible Hulk-...

    Ice Giant 37 deplores those who infect the public discourse with their illeism.
  4. By Ice Giant 37. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @07:45am:
    George W. Bush tends to use the phrase "You see" as an indication that he's about to tell a lie.
  5. By Mean Jean. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @08:07am:
    He's trying to appeal to the Quaker fringe.
  6. By Dinsdale Piranha. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @08:51am:
    Quaker fringe Ha haha
  7. By Ice Giant 37. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @09:08am:
    He's trying to appeal to the Quaker fringe.

    Pennsylvania license plates used to carry the slogan "you've got a friend in Pennsylvania"
  8. By Ice Giant 37. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @09:10am:
    For the benefit of those who didn't get comments 5-7: the official name of Quakers is
    The Religious Society of Friends.
  9. By Minderbinder. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @09:47am:
    Ice Giant 37 sent Minderbinder to the dictionary. Minderbinder doesn't like to go to the dictionary.

    My friends, Minderbinder is tired of hearing politicians say "the American people." Even J. Stewart and S. Cobert use it instead of plain old "Americans." Would you prefer to say "the people of Liverpool" when you could call them Liverpudlians? Not Minderbinder.
  10. By TimG. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @10:15am:
    For example, in FDR's acceptance speech, he used "my friends" 11 times.

    Yeah, and McCain probably taught him. (bada boom!)

    (Cuz, y'know, he's real old and all that)
  11. By Minderbinder. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @11:40am:
    Rimshot for TimG.
  12. By Spokane Mary. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @01:06pm:
    It still makes me think of "Comrades, ..."
  13. By Mean Jean. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @01:10pm:
    No, that would be "fellow travelers".
  14. By Banjo Brad. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @02:20pm:
    I've never met the man (McCain), and he, as far as I know, knows nothing about me. Therefore, whenever he says "my friends", I know I don't have to listen, because he sure isn't talking to me!
  15. By Howlin' Hobbit. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @07:03pm:
    Banjo Brad... FTW!

    (With honorable mention to the rest of the Quaker thread.)
  16. By Barbwire. Comment posted 02-Sep-2008 @11:58pm:
    If he had a decent campaign manager, he'd tell him to knock it off--it's creepy.
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