Ain't impressed with candidates' grammar
"It aint a day for quitting nothing," Texas governor Rick Perry, shown in this Oct. 7, 2011 photo, assured us late last week after his infamous debate brain freeze. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Other folks might wonder if it's at least in part because the word "ain't" reads a tad unpresidential.
"It ain't a day for quitting nothing," Texas Gov. Rick Perry assured us late last week after his mid-debate brain freeze.
"Ain't gonna happen," fellow Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain told reporters who wondered whether sexual harassment allegations would prompt him to drop out of the race.
Less than a week later, the Ph.D.-holding, 23-book-writing, not-prone-to-ain't-uttering Gingrich trailed only Mitt Romney in a national CNN poll.
Well, kinda, says DePaul professor Bruce Newman, editor of the Journal of Political Marketing.
"Newt Gingrich is just a lucky guy right now," Newman says. "He's in the right place at the right time. When the other guys at the top are not looking that great, who else do you go for?"
So potential voters aren't, in effect, wholeheartedly rejecting poor grammar?
Newman thinks not. The reaction against Cain and Perry is "not so much to simplemindedness" as to other problems with them as candidates, he says.
Oh, fine. But seriously, "ain't"? And not just "ain't," but "ain't a day for quitting nothing?" Was that the best line to hitch your star to on the day you're doing damage control for looking, um, less than cerebral?
"It could be another way to communicate, ‘I'm just an average kind of guy,'" Newman says. "He's reinforcing that image: ‘What you saw was not a pressured response, it's just me being me.'"
Cain and Perry have both, after all, billed themselves as real and unpolished from the beginning.
"My guess is it's just two guys marketing themselves as nonpolitical types, average Joes, non-slick," Newman says.
"Ain't" also cuts the conversation short.
"It's a way of keeping it very concise and not having to bring into conversation words that could insinuate another meaning — ‘Well, I don't intend on,' ‘My plan is not,'" Newman says.
"With ‘ain't gonna happen,' the message remains, ‘There's nothing to discuss here.'"
Other than the small matter of a double negative in a single clause.