From almost the moment President Obama assumed office, observers began calling attention to his unusual proclivity to use the pronoun I. In one of the earliest notices of this practice, an alarmed Terence Jeffrey of CNS News counted 34 I’s in the president’s speech on the federal rescue of General Motors but, ominously, just one mention of “Congress” and none of “law.” Stories documenting Obama’s fondness for the personal pronoun have dotted newspapers and blogs ever since. Just last week, a report in Grabien charged the president with referencing himself (I or we) 118 times in 33 minutes in his departure speech from India, which computed to a rate of “3.5 Obama references per minute.”
It comes as no surprise that most who read the I-meter have been critical of the president. Their calculations are meant to suggest that Obama has crossed a verbal Rubicon, employing the first person more often than any other president. Language, to these critics, clearly matters. Obama’s pronominal binging, they assert, bespeaks a dangerous personalism in his view of governance, a boundless narcissism in his psychological disposition, and a peculiar solipsism that demands that his listeners see the world as filtered through his eyes.
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