'Twas the final presidential debate of the season last night. Here is your semantical commentary. (For GIFs and things, go here). Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer hosted this sit-down with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, focused ostensibly on the matter of foreign policy, though there were divergences, at the end, Romney exclaiming "I love teachers!" (Schieffer responded, "I think we all love teachers," and moved the conversation to closing remarks.) In the purely personal Words & Style rankings, I'd say this debate was better than the first, not as compelling or speech-entertaining as the second (what with all that talk of women in binders), and nowhere near the semantical fun of Biden's "malarkey" moment in the only V.P. debate, against Paul Ryan. Herewith, some further analysis of Debate No. 3, with the help of Brown University visiting professor, Geoffrey Pullum and Babel No More author Michael Erard, who've supplied their linguistic expertise to a number of the previous debates, plus the language analysis of Expert System.
Fashion and style. Starting with the physical: Romney may have gotten a bit of sun while in Florida, or my TV screen (I was watching on CBS for this debate) made it appear that way. He looked just a little bit tanner. Both men wore dark suits, as they've worn each debate, with crisp white shirts and different colored ties: Romney's was red-and-blue striped (someone—fine, @DaneCook—pointed out that combo is the flag of Norway; a Norwegian tweeted back "NO IT ISN'T!!"). Obama's tie was blue, with small polka-dots, and without obvious comparisons to the flags of other nations. Romney's lapel flag pin in split-screen shots dwarfed Obama's, forcing me to wonder if he was going with a slightly larger one in each debate for liminal impact. They both looked nicely presidential. Romney was visibly sweating at points, while Obama was not. In the end, they both delivered their closing remarks looking straight at the camera, which felt earnest and sort of debate camp 101-y, but was perhaps what they should have been doing all along—i.e., speaking to those undecided voters, with eye contact.