Six-Word Life Stories and the Debate Last Night

22 02 2008

NPR has been playing around lately with a poetic form of short-short story, capturing a life story in “six words.”

Stephen Colbert for example, offers these six: “Well, I thought it was funny!”

Reading the transcript of last night’s CNN debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, I found one and I claim authorship! (Favorite Daughter wrote something last year about “found poetry” and when I find it, I’ll link that too. It all connects, don’t you think?) A natural gem of six facets telling a sparkly, self-contained, true, funny and tragic story of this bizarre campaign season, at least to my peculiar eyes —

“It’s time we said no more.”

(That’s verbatim from the transcript, I swear, although I admit to taking a bit of poetic license, because that’s not how she meant it — and those six words were in her opening statement! She went on to say more, quite a bit more and much of it pretty desperate and destructive imo, too bad. Her power of story was stronger stopping right there.)

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19 responses

22 02 2008
JJ

If you want to play too, go here.

22 02 2008
Shawna

I thought she did great, but will admit this has been a weird political year in terms of campaigning.

22 02 2008
JJ

Hi Shawna — that line that got her booed made quite an impression on me, I guess, ruined her whole performance. Hey, I should count that, maybe it was six words? —
It’s
change
you
can
Xerox

No, that’s only five words, unless we take the poetic license of spelling out the contraction. 😉

And here’s some video — shall we count her words compared to the guys she cribbed em from, or just dis-count them as not counting?

22 02 2008
NanceConfer

He wasn’t all that impressive either. Kind of low-key, from what I saw. Watching someone try not to make any mistakes just isn’t that exciting.

Nance

22 02 2008
JJ

Fair point. Nothing to lose looks different than everything to lose.

I’ll see if there’s a good six-word story in that transcript in his words (and I use the term “his” loosely!)

Let’s see —

“Politics have changed a little bit”

“That’s a consequence of bad judgment”

“Start doing something about that suffering”

“Imposed upon a huge strategic blunder”

“We start getting into silly season”

23 02 2008
JJ

A local homeschool mom of four (unknowingly of course) made me laugh today by posting this six-word life story as an ad:

For Sale:
Homeschool
Kids
Home Decor

p.s. – I mean she unknowingly made me laugh and was just really posting an ad, not that she is unknowingly the mom of four, or that the four didn’t know she was their mom, or — oh, bother!

23 02 2008
JJ

Well, well. What a reversal in less than 48 hours!

Thursday night: “I am honored. I am honored to be here with Barack Obama,” Clinton said. “I am absolutely honored.”

Saturday afternoon: (comparing Obama to Karl Rove)
“So
shame
on
you,
Barack
Obama!”
. . . That is not the new politics that the speeches are about,” she said.
. . .”Meet me in Ohio and let’s have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign.”

23 02 2008
JJ

If there really were to be a debate about :
“behavior
and
tactics
in
this
campaign”

I have to say I think it would make:
a
pretty
gory
six
word
story —

23 02 2008
COD

If you like the six word thing you may also enjoy http://www.onesentence.org/ – which was created by a friend of mine.

23 02 2008
JJ

I did enjoy it. I voted for my favorites too, made me feel like I was contributing something even though I didn’t have a pithy line to add.
(Have you got one you’d consider offering up to the intertubes?)

25 02 2008
JJ

Yesterday while riding the exercise bike with uncommon vigor, I watched CNN broadcasting Obama’s rally and mused about why I’ve come to feel and think about his candidacy the way America itself is starting to feel and think. Suddenly the power of story hit me and it was even in six words! — and not just his life story but mine (from homeschooling to hurricanes, finance to fascism) and maybe the whole nation’s, and not just about the change of this election but maybe the change that will be this whole century.

Because
I’m
Tired
of Being
Afraid

27 02 2008
JJ

Well, they’ve been arguing about how much “words” matter for weeks now and the candidate who keeps saying words don’t matter enough, made a big deal about them in last night’s debate redux. 🙂

“Denounce” and “reject” – she insisted they were two different things, one stronger than the other and therefore challenging him as not strong enough, so he obligingly “conceded the point” and added rejection to his denouncement. Lawyers! Is this all we have to look forward to, then, years and years of this?

27 02 2008
JJ

All of which REALLY makes me wish she would stick to her original six-word story as posted above: “It’s time we said no more.”

27 02 2008
JJ

LOL – also from last night’s debate, as I’m watching the recording we set, another story in six words from Hillary Clinton (about not releasing her tax return) –
I’m
a
Little
Busy
Right
Now

27 02 2008
JJ

In honor of Mr. Buckley’s passing today, here are (more than six) interesting words HE chose to write earlier this month, about the words chosen by Clinton and Obama as they debate each other:

By William F. Buckley Jr.
. . .verbal traps are widely used and widely counter-used. The best collection of them appears in the last few pages of Fowler’s Modern English Usage, but of course that section is only a small part of his great work. It is worth acquainting the reader with the teeming harvest of Fowler’s analysis.

He offers us, for instance, a list of words owing their vogue to the joy of showing that one has acquired them: allergic, ambience, ambivalent, catalyst, complex, equate, global, idiosyncrasy, protagonist, repercussion, seminal, streamlined.

He gives another list of words taken up merely as novel variants on a more common word: adumbrate for sketch, blueprint for plan, breakthrough for achievement, built-in for solid, ceiling for limit, claim for assert, integrate for combine, intrigue for interest, liquidate for destroy, reaction for opinion, optimistic for hopeful, redundant for superfluous, rewarding for satisfying, significant for important, sabotage for wreck, target for objective, smear for calumny.

And there are words owing their vogue to some particular occasion, plus “popularized technicalities” (words legitimately used in some scientific discipline, but brought carelessly into general use): acid test, coexistence, exponential growth, geometric progression, iron curtain, psychological moment, winds of change. And words of rhetorical appeal: archetypal, challenging, dedicated, fabulous, fantastic, massive, overtones, sensational, unthinkable.

My reluctance to quote at such length from the great Fowler is mitigated by my serious wish that students of the English language would themselves take the initiative of familiarizing themselves with the profundities and niceties of the points being made by Mr. Fowler.

. . .Presidential candidates no longer even try to sound like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, yet it is not bad occasionally to subject them to such analysis, to learn what it is that is not being said. . .

29 02 2008
JJ

And proving that none of this is “just words” and life stories are life itself, from “Power of Story Rules”:

NEW YORK TIMES
May 22, 2007
This Is Your Life (and How You Tell It)
By Benedict Carey

. . .“When we first started studying life stories, people thought it was just idle curiosity — stories, isn’t that cool?” said Dan P. McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern and author of the 2006 book, “The Redemptive Self.” “Well, we find that these narratives guide behavior in every moment, and frame not only how we see the past but how we see ourselves in the future.”

Researchers have found that the human brain has a natural affinity for narrative construction. People tend to remember facts more accurately if they encounter them in a story rather than in a list, studies find; and they rate legal arguments as more convincing when built into narrative tales rather than on legal precedent. . .

5 03 2008
JJ

Aspiring English major Favorite Daughter writes her story in six words:
“Never
could
use
just
six
words.”

5 03 2008
JJ

A fun one from our local (and yet international) theatre/opera list today:
“It is
Delicacy
in
my
country!”

5 06 2008
Pithy Pitch for Obama’s Finger on My (Elevator) Button « Cocking A Snook!

[…] So up his. (SLEEVE, I said!) I’m laughing up mine back at him, because I know I can do this, piece of cake. Why am I so smug? Because he forgot, I guess, that I already did it! […]

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