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We’re Just Sayin’: An Insider’s Guide to Gavin-speak

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

If this whole governor thing doesn’t work out for Gavin Newsom, he’s well positioned for a new career writing epigrams for Hallmark.

On the trail, his high-energy speaking style features a quirky linguistic tic: Newsom routinely stems the flow of his words by suddenly inserting a phrase like, “I always say,” then quickly follows with an aphorism that makes it seem he’s channeling Tony Robbins channeling the Book of Proverbs with a dash of Khalil Gibran thrown in. No wonder this guy loves Twitter.

At a campaign town hall that drew 250 people in Santa Barbara the other night, the Democrat answered questions for two hours, and his full-speed-ahead political patois was for the most part polished and, at times, even persuasive. Time and again, however, when it seemed his rapid rush of words pushed him into some verbal cul de sac, oh say, a furlong or so ahead of his brain, he’d revert to some hoary maxim, as if he’d cadged a list of bumper strip slogans on the drive from the hotel to the hall.

“To say is not to do,” he said at least three times, as a way of explaining how his self-described accomplishments as the mayor overseeing the San Francisco Miracle contrast to the utter failure by every other California politician to achieve much of anything at all.

“I always say . . . that it’s decisions, not conditions, that determine our fate,” he offered at another point, after a full-barreled reflection on the minimum wage ran out of steam.

“I always say . . . the difference between success and failure is the difference between interested people and committed people,” he said at another juncture, shortly after propounding the Ben Franklin-like precept that, “You can’t be pro-jobs and anti-business.”

Reaching back five centuries, he gave credit to Michelangelo for wisely asserting that, “The biggest risk is not that you aim too high and miss, but that you aim too low and succeed” (What Michelangelo actually said, at least in translation, was “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low, and we realize it.”) Newsom’s version is close enough for political work and fits more comfortably within the 140-character limit of a Tweet.

Wrapping up his town hall, Newsom naturally made a pitch for everyone to become his friend on Facebook: “It’s not a time of life, it’s a state of mind,” he assured the fair number of elderly in the crowd.

As a public service, in the interest of sparing Newsom’s future audiences too much repetition, calbuzz offers these adages for his use, free of charge.

As we always say:
– “Dogs bark, but the caravan rolls on.”
– “The future lies ahead.”
– “I’m just going to take it one day at a time.”
– “Revenge is a dish best served cold”
– “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
– “(fill in the blank) level playing field.”
– “An eye for an eye, and the whole world would be blind.”
– “Education is the key to the future.”
– “There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip.”
– “Don’t come a knockin’ if this van is rockin’.”
– “I can see Oakland from my house.”
– “The only poll that counts is the one on election day.”