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Without a Doubt, Ehrlich Has a Way With 1 Word

There's even a fancy academic term for this type of device -- "paramessage credibility" -- which has to do with words that convey a deeper symbolic meaning than what's immediately evident.

In the case of the word "obviously," Vatz suggested that perhaps the governor is intending to communicate a certain level of mastery, a command of the facts.

But does he do so intentionally? Was he trained to use the word so often?

George Lakoff, a University of California Berkeley linguist who has been teaching Democrats how to better harness their words to be more persuasive, said that Ehrlich may well have come by it honestly.

Repetition of such words, he said, are common with certain personalities. "It's a matter of intimidation. It says, 'If this isn't obvious to you, you're an idiot.' "

More than that, Lakoff said, "it presupposes that what you're about to say is true. It keeps people from asking more questions or from challenging you."

Lakoff said he encounters the word fairly often in academic circles, along with a few other similar words and phrases: "As anyone can tell," "It's long been known," "Clearly."

Gregory Massoni, Ehrlich's press secretary, said he is with the governor all the time and has never noticed him saying any of those words or phrases with unusual frequency. He doesn't know whether the governor was coached to repeat the word while making public remarks, but if he was, "he'd probably do the opposite," Massoni said.

To anyone who knows the governor, he added, that much should be obvious.


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