Select Page


     “What this country needs is more free speech worth listening to.” — Hansell B. Duckett

Overheard at coffee:

Waitress: “Hower you guys doin’?”

Customer: “Doin’ good.”

Waitress: “Whatcha havin’ this mornin’?”

Customer: “Just coffee. Headin’ out soon.”

Now, if President Obama needed any support in face of the recent criticism of his speech habits, he could find it in South Dakota.

Speaking casually – or as a linguist would say, “g-dropping” – is fairly common in our state. Others call it “dropping your participle,” referring to the “ing” form of whatever verb is being used. But when the president does it, it’s because he wants his audience to be comfortable listening to him. He does not want to come off as the Harvard-educated lawyer that he is.

When speaking to organized labor recently, the president said that paid sick leave should be a benefit for all employees, and he called on American business to make it happen.

“That’s somethin’ we should be doin’,” said the president.

What is most interesting about this is not that some people commonly drop their “g’s” when speaking, but that the president has been criticized for doing so.

A few years ago, at a Black Caucus awards dinner, The Associated Press quoted the president:

“Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop  cryin’. We are going to press on. We have work to do.”

Surprisingly, actor and liberal activist Samuel L. Jackson took after the president, chastising him for trying to sound like someone he wasn’t.

“First of all, we know it ain’t because of his blackness,” said Jackson, who also is black. “So I say, stop trying to ‘relate.’ Be a leader.”

In other words, there is nothing wrong with precise diction, and a lot right with it.

The other unexpected development connected to “g-dropping” was the criticism of The Associated Press, which reported the president’s speech as he said it – without the “g’s.”

Some critics, incredibly, claimed the AP was acting in a racist manner by reporting the speech pronunciations accurately. Apparently, they believed that the wire service should have “cleaned up” the president’s diction in its print report.

See what “g-dropping” can get you?

The practice of politicians of all stripes (Sarah Palin was particularly talented at this) to fall into the local dialect or use a more informal way of speaking when in certain parts of the country is at minimum worth a comment over coffee – or a column in the local newspaper.

The idiom from ages ago – mind your p’s and q’s – can now be updated: Mind your “g’s”.

Sept. 16, 2015