With the McCain/Palin duo getting down and dirty, Obama might benefit from the front page article in today’s New York Times about the effects of “elderspeak,” the term for the infantilizing way people tend to speak to the elderly.
Older people report that they resent being shouted at, ignored, or spoken of in the third person. They’re insulted by expressions such as, “Good girl! Did you understand what I just said to you? How are we feeling?”
In tonight’s debate, the question I’d like posed to McCain—and not so much because it’s an offensive, elderspeak mistake, but because it’s legitimate is, “Who did you used to be?” The emphasis could be on almost any word. After repeatedly reminding us of the sacrifices he once made for our country, he’s shown that he’s now willing to sacrifice us.
Being forced to consider, “Who did you used to be?” in the case of John McCain isn’t a patronizing demonstration of elderspeak, but a challenge he deserves to hear.