NucularI spotted a friend of a friend on Facebook ridiculing Sarah Palin, basing her critique on the fact that the word ‘nuclear’ Palin pronounces ‘nucular.’ The critique is all over the web.

Seitzman: “She said ‘nucular.’ Twice. … If you are a McCain/Palin/Bush voter, you and I do not have a difference of opinion. We have a difference in brain power.”

BethB at Momocrats: “What I really look for in a potential VP candidate is if they are intelligent enough to lead our nation (potentially being the first in charge). … Here is a little help from a 3 year old, that has no problem pronouncing ‘Nuclear.'”

Jezebel: “Do You Think You Can Stomach Four More Years Of ‘Nucular?'”

OldGator: “Did Sarah Palin really say “Nucular” instead of nuclear? Say it ain’t so, GWB.”

Godmode: “Sarah Palin needs English Classes. She can’t pronounce the word “nuclear” and keeps on uttering nucular. lol. Hilarious.”


I’m no Palin devotee, but these little attacks struck me instantly as the desperation of people who hated Palin for ideological reasons in the first place and are willing to use anything to hang on to the same characterizations that were so easy to make when she appeared on Katie Couric: she’s stupid, she’s “an idiot“, she’s unknowledgeable, etc. That’s not so easy to pull off now that Palin – by any reasonable standard – handed Biden a decent opposition at Thursday night’s debate, so they’re reaching.

And there’s a reason that it has tended to be rank-and-file Palin-loathers rather than professional pundits who value their credibility who have attacked her for saying “nucular”, and that is that she’s not alone in pronouncing the word that way. That’s right: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Water Mondale and a huge percentage of English-speakers join Palin in pronouncing the word that way. I wonder if the same people who are currently using it as a proof of Palin’s ignorance or stupidity think former President Bill Clinton is stupid by the same standard? Er, no. He was brilliant. A veritable genius.

If you doubt what I’m saying about the pronunciation ‘nucular’, let me introduce you to what the dictionaries say about it (yes, it’s in the fucking dictionary).


“Though disapproved of by many, pronunciations ending in [kj?.l?(?)] have been found in widespread use among educated speakers, including scientists, lawyers, professors, congressmen, United States cabinet members, and at least two United States presidents and one vice president, who are, in other respects, educated. While most common in the United States, these pronunciations have also been heard from British and Canadian speakers.”

Oxford English:

“The colloquial pronunciation…has been criticized in usage guides since at least the mid-20th century, although it is now commonly given as a variant in modern dictionaries.”

The reasons for the evolution of the pronunciation ‘nucular’ may be phonotactic via metathesis or morphological, according to experts, but nobody should be in any doubt that Palin is not alone in its usage or that it’s flat-out asinine to try to claim her usage of the pronunciation is proof that she’s an idiot.

In the evolution of language…. Palin is…. more evolved than her detractors?

(For the record, I say ‘nuke-lee-ar.’)