A Lexiconomenclatural Analysis” (2/10/08)
(I thought I’d share with you a draft of an article I’m submitting to a prestigious peer-reviewed journal. The article was written in early February. — ed.)
Most analyses of the Democratic primary results have been based on factors like demographics, caucus dynamics, television advertising buys, weather, etc. Most predictions are based on the same factors.
Most of these analyses and predictions are wrong. Furthermore, they’re needlessly complex. I’m a great believer in “Occam’s Razor,” the principle which says: “If you say something complicated, I’ll slit your throat.”
This paper offers a new analytical framework for analyzing and predicting the Democratic primary results.
I’ll make things simple: What are politicians trying to win in a primary? States. What are states? Nouns. What are nouns? Words. How are words spelled? With letters.
It’s called Lexiconomenclatural Analysis. And it works.
For instance, people have spent a lot of time analyzing why Hillary beat Obama in Massachusetts: Was it a Kennedy/Kerry backlash? Was it blue-collar voters? Do New Englanders hate Black people?
No, no, and no. To understand Hillary’s win in Massachusetts, you need only look at her win in Tennessee. What do those states have in common? They both have multiple sets of paired letters. (The so-called “Super-multi-pair-set-havers.”)
Contrast that with Obama’s victories in states with single instances of paired letters: Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri.
PREDICTION: Clinton will win Mississippi. The state carries three sets of pairs; Obama just can’t compete. But Obama will win Hawaii.
I’ve seen lots of theories for Obama’s huge win in Illinois, but they all miss the mark: The “I” in Illinois is immediately followed by two lower-case “l’s” and an “i,” which creates the impression of FOUR lower-case l’s in a row. Obama is strong in states whose names contain optical illusions.
PREDICTION: If there was a state with four identical letters in a row (a “quadruple-bundle”) Obama would win handily. If Missouri was spelled “Missssouri” (which, by the way, would immediately make it the best state name of all time), he would have taken even more delegoids, or caucusates, or whatever they’re called.
Again, that’s not to discount Hillary’s aforementioned strength in the super-multi-pair-set-havers; if Tennessee was spelled “Tennesseennssee,” she would have been simply unnstoppabblle.
One result flummoxed me: Obama came into the race with a reputation of strength in single-vowel states: Alaska, with its disenfranchisement of all vowels other than “A,” was widely predicted to fall in his column. And Alabama, which even looks like “Obama” if you squint and change some of the letters, was no different.
What, then, to make of Hillary’s performance in Arkansas? It’s a single-vowel state— how did she win it? My theory: Hillary has a hidden strength in states with silent letters. (Note to coastal elites: The last “s” in Arkansas is silent.) This allowed her to peel off a state that otherwise would have gone to Obama.
We see the same dynamic in Hillary’s surprising Tennessee win: It’s a single-vowel state, which should play to Obama’s strength. But it’s ALSO a super-multi-pair-set-haver, which favors Hillary. Furthermore, it played to Hillary’s comfort with silent letters. (Note to coastal elites: The first “n” in Tennessee is silent.)
PRONOUNCEMENT: If Arkansas was spelled “Arkansah,” it would have gone to Obama. If it was spelled “Arkensaugh,” it would have gone to Hillary.
Maine was expected to go to Hillary; beltway insiders call her “One-Syllable Hill.” Does Obama’s victory in that monosyllabic backwater warrant a re-evaluation of that nickname? In any event, Guam has eight delegate votes and one syllable; it is now in play.
Obama has proved he can win states with three or more syllables. When his Maine victory is coupled with his wins in Louisiana and South Carolina— the states with the most syllables up for grabs (5 each)— we see the beginnings of what I call “full-spectrum syllable dominance.” (And don’t forget the The Virgin Islands!)
One can’t help but wonder how Obama would perform in states with six or seven syllables. Alas, no such states exist because our founding fathers were simpletons. Certainly he’d be a force to reckon with in England, where every town seems to have eleven syllables, like they started blabbing and just kept going until their quills ran out of ink: “Our village shall be called. . . Old Worcestershire-Upon-Framptonhelmsford!”
Could Barack Obama be the first African-American King of England? That’s for British voters to decide.
PREDICTION: When it comes to West Virginia, Clinton will win those districts that pronounce it “West Vir-jin-ya” (4 syllables), while Obama will win those that pronounce it “West Vir-jin-ee-a” (5 syllables).
Mike Huckabee has already won those who pronounce it “Wess Vir-jee-Nee-yer-eh-Urh.”
Another shocker: Hillary didn’t win a single three-syllable state that begins and ends with vowels. Alaska, Idaho, Iowa all went for Obama. That threw me. . . until I noticed something. Three syllables? Begins and ends with vowels? Remind you of anything? OBAMA. This structural mirroring of the candidate’s name and the state’s name creates a positive feedback loop. (This explains Hillary’s win in New York, which has two syllables and begins and ends with consonants— like “Clinton.”)
Going forward, I think we’ll see candidates adjusting the spelling of their names on a state-by-state basis, adding or dropping syllables and vowels according to the specific lexical demographics of each contest.
Obama’s claim to being the “new” candidate of change is belied by his loss in every state with the word “New” in the name. New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York all went to Hillary, as will (I predict) New Mexico. I’ve heard rumors that Clinton’s campaign is lobbying the Democratic Party to have Pennsylvania’s name changed to “New Pennsylvanialand.”
Meanwhile, Obama’s campaign is trying to convince Ohio to change its name to “Ohiobamavictoryland.”
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SOME THOUGHTS about Tuesday’s contests (This refers to the Potomac Primary of 2/12/08 — ed.):
Maryland. It’s a three-syllable battleground that begins and ends with consonants. The only decided state with similar features is Washington, which Obama won. But I don’t think Obama will win Maryland; there’s something sitting in the middle of the state he can’t overcome: The letter “Y.” I’m skeptical such an inexperienced politician can handle the mysterious, neither-vowel-nor-consonant duality of our penultimate letter. So far, the only other “Y” in play has been New Jersey
’s, and that state went to Hillary. Remember, she’s been dealing with a “Y” at the end of her name for decades. (Who has the “Y Chromosome” now, Obama? LOL.)
PREDICTION: Wyoming, which is not only spelled with a “Y,” but also calls out the letter in its first syllable, will go to Hillary by a WIDE margin. As in, “Obama, you’ve just been “Y’d!”
UPDATE: Some people have emailed me to say Obama has a nine-point plan about dealing with the letter “Y” on his web site. HAR! The guy’s so inexperienced, I doubt he even has a web site.
Virginia. Obama’s supporters brag that he has won nine states ending in “A,” while Hillary has won four. But that ignores a deeper issue: Hillary won Nevada, which abbreviates to NV, which ends in “V,“ which kicks off “Virginia.“ Or don’t you know about the abbreviation-consonant-transference algorithm? I’m sorry, I thought this was the internet— where grown-ups discuss things. Where’d you go to school— preschool?
(Note to self: Cut that sassy moment before submitting this to the Journal of Alphabet Letters and How Amazing They Are.)
Washington, D.C., with its comma and periods, is a lexiconomenclaturalist’s nightmare. Of all the states, Washington, D.C. alone insists on including its degree in its name. “I worked hard for my Doctorate of Colonography, and I expect to be recognized!“ Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Anyway, just a little bee on my bonnet about “D.C.” because it complicates my analysis: We don’t know which candidate does better with punctuation marks. Obama’s supporters point to the two lower-case “i”s in Illinois, saying their dots look like periods and this puts him in a good position to grab D.C. But my guts tells me Hillary wins this one: She took Oklahoma, which abbreviates to OK, which is a word in its own right when it’s spelled O.K.— and there we have two actual, proper periods! Not some fake-ass dots floating above some vowels.
* * * * *
To Obama supporters who think momentum favors him, I would say: Don’t automatically assume he’s going to win this thing. Obama may have better numbers at this point, but you can’t spell “Victory” with numbers. The only things you can spell with numbers are other, larger numbers. To spell “Victory,” you need letters.
Indeed, as of Monday afternoon, only Hillary can spell “Victory” using letters from the states she’s won. Nevada gives her the “V;” New York gives her the “Y.” Obama lacks both.
Another point: Hillary’s victories in New Jersey and Arizona give her access to “J” and “Z,” two other letters Obama doesn’t have. And what letters! If this was a Scrabble game, Hillary Clinton would be preparing a death-blow.
I just totally ran out of energy.