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WORD WATCH

Schwarzenegger's new language

January 08, 2006|BRENDAN BUHLER

'INFRASTRUCTURE" is not a word that trips lightly off the shag carpeting that is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's tongue. And yet, there it was five times in his State of the State speech Thursday.

The official faith this year is public works. Conan the Constructor used some form of "build" 17 times and talked about "roads" and "highways" 11 times. "Schools" were invoked 17 times.

How the tenets of Terminatorism have changed.

Last year, it was Arnold the Oracle, divining the people's will and going forth in their name. Looking up from the scattered ceremonial entrails, he proclaimed a great reform, and lo, that went very poorly for him, with all of his initiatives smote dead at the polls.

This year, as he tried to gather up his personal scattered entrails, Arnold the Penitent mentioned "reform" only six times.

Some of the liturgy remains but the meaning has changed.

For the second year running, the phrase "the people" was the governor's favorite political fetish, with 13 mentions to last year's 15 and only seven in 2004.

But this year, "the people" came mostly at the start of the speech, when Schwarzenegger accepted chastisement and apologized to the mighty masses. What a difference a drubbing at the polls makes.

In his first year, newly anointed by divine recall, Schwarzenegger read from the book of "jobs" 17 times -- we were all going to have fantastic ones just as soon as he "tore up" the state's credit card.

Politicians talk about cash only when they want to cut it, and in 2004, he was on a rhetorical tear, mentioning "dollars," "money" and "spending" 27 times.

This year, as he called for a $222-billion building crusade, the green stuff and its expenditure found their way into his speech 12 times.

Hey, it's money only if you mention it.

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-- BRENDAN BUHLER

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