Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Noam Scheiber, over at TNR's Stump, notes the following from Barack Obama's Nightline appearance.

I think there's no doubt that the fact that my name is Barack Obama and that my father was from Kenya and that I grew up in Hawaii that there's that whole exotic aspect to me that people, I think, have to get past. But they also, surprisingly enough, even in rural Iowa, recognize the opportunity to send a signal to the world that, you know, we are not as ingrown, as parochial as you may perceive or as the Bush administration seems to have communicated, that we are, in fact, embracing the world, we are listening, we are concerned, we want to be engaged.

Noam reasonably notes that 'the "even in rural Iowa" part could stick in some people's craws' as unappealingly condescending. What jumped out at me was ingrown. As far as I know there's no use for the word "ingrown" that refers to people. So the question is what word Obama was reaching for to describe a stereotype about rural people (since the context is "they prove themselves better than that by supporting me")-- and I can't think of any possibility other than "inbred."

Update: I understand perfectly well that what Obama meant was something like "inward looking." But there's not a word that means that which is readily confused with "ingrown." As far as slips of the tongue go, it's better to have called people toenails than to have called them cousin-marrying yokels-- but I think the slip of the tongue has to have gone with a slip of the brain that thought there was some "in-" word that fit into the sentence.