When I am with my family and friends, I do not remember referring to other people as folks. I normally say:
- “My friend Josh.”
- “Those people.”
- “That nice family, the McCormicks.”
I will bet you a dollar, payable by direct wire transfer, that if you do the same. Ok…I will skip the gambling part since this is a G rated site! I just wanted to show my good faith that I am darn serious. Darn…another word we do not use much often anymore.
Think about it. Could you imagine having a serious conversation with a business associate, for example, and saying “Irv, Do you think those fine folks over at Acme Exterminators will be a good choice to get rid of our rodent problem in our offices?” I got you now! You know you would never hear that line. Forget about the folks, what about the rat under the chairs!
I am sure when you go to a wedding, marveling over the choice of flowers they have as centerpieces, you probably would not be saying, “those folks have great taste,” despite you being taste impaired in thinking that fully opened roses are fresh (hint..they died this morning after being used for Claire Torre’s funeral just yesterday). Regardless, the salient point I am trying to make – but keep getting interrupted by me and myself – is that you would never refer to them as folks. If you have a proclivity to insults, you might call them “schmucks” for overpaying for dead flowers. However, never ever would they be called folks.
So, when did politicians start calling people folks? I think it started with President Obama. But if President George W. Bush was more articulate, I think its nascent stage could have come from his masterful use of vocabulary (remember “nucular?”).
Watch the news. Listen to Obama’s campaign stump speeches. Here is an excerpt of one of his news conferences on August 20, 2012:
And I continue to be open to seeing Congress approach this with a balanced plan that has tough spending cuts, building on the trillion dollars’ worth of spending cuts that we’ve already made, but also asks for additional revenue from folks like me, from folks in the top 1 or 2 percent, to make sure that folks who can least afford it aren’t suddenly bearing the burden and we’re providing some additional certainty to small businesses and families going forward.
Count it! Three folks in one sentence! According to BuzzFeed, he has used the word folks 7.3 times per 10,000 words!
The art of language is fascinating. Politicians (the real good ones) use it gracefully. They weave words to soften a message as if listening to a lullaby. They find the word that has the least offensive connotation in an effort to offend no one. So, new words are popping up all the time in political lingo. Obama’s “word du jour” is folks. How can anyone be offended by being called a folk? Genius!
Well, it might be clever by half, but is this what we really want to hear? Is it that we just cannot tolerate being called people?
I think I figured it out. Now go with me folks…I mean people! Politicians use that word because they want us to feel that they are like us. You know, just plain folks. The type of folks that are jolly good citizens, walking elderly ladies across a busy street, picking up a wallet with hundreds in cash and returning it to its rightful owner (cash in hand), tipping your Fedora when you see a classy lady, and clapping for every veteran we see at a ballgame. The type of folks that are pure, innocent and yearning to be neutered.
Thats all folks!