Decoding delegate-speak from the convention hall floor

As John Kerry leafs through the pages of his thesaurus to hone the climactic speech that can make or break his candidacy Thursday night, Americans of every caste and clime are asking the burning question:

What are those delegates really doing down on the convention floor?

Regular readers of this column will recall that we have lampooned the Democratic Party faithful for inclinations to excess in the departments of free food and entertainment.

Today, we lampoon them for excessive immoderation in the department of language. To be precise ... a lack of vocabulary beyond the exclamatory, "WOOO!" (or to be completely fair, the dual exclamatory, "WOOO WOOOO!")

As I made my way across the convention floor, trying to gain deeper insight into this half-football-game, half-church-revival ritual known as the American political convention, I was struck by one observation.

These people could stand a freshly coined outburst or two from Kerry's - or his speechwriter's - thesaurus. If the big-tent party of inclusion can't develop some diversity in the arena of mass expression (what about "heeeeEEEEyaw!" or "hooooWEEEEEyooo!" ... and whatever happened to "zippidydoodah"?) this convention could be their last hurrah (a turn-of-the-century word that once meant, "WOO!").

Consider the lack of nuanced response every 30 seconds from the hours of about 3 p.m. to midnight.

1. Speaker Maya Angelou:

"Let it shine America ... Let it show we know how to put a light on in the darkness."

Delegate response, in unison: "WOO WOOOOOO!"

2. Speaker Ted Kennedy: "We have a moral imperative to speak for Americans of every income level!"

Delegate response, in unison: "WOO WOOOOO!"

3. Speaker Barack Obama: "E pluribus unum ... out of many come the one!"

Delegate response, in unison: "WOO WOOOOO!"

For deeper insight, I interviewed Jerry Lapoint, a Wisconsin delegate wearing a three-cornered cheese hat. Arms folded over a chest covered with Kerry/Edwards pins, Mr. Lapoint was pivoting from the waist for a clear view of the podium between two 12-inch stuffed donkeys that adorned the beak caps of the delegates immediately in front of him.

"What's this delegate thing all about?" I asked. "Why do all these people spend thousands of dollars to fly to Boston, pay exorbitant hotel rates, get lost on buses, and be strip-searched at every doorway to come and do this?"

"WOO WOOO!" he said.

Subsequent research has shown me that two forces are at work.

No. 1. Mass stupidity is induced by sensory overload. You simply can't hear or think when on the convention floor.

No. 2. Pure, unabashed celebrity worship. If you are paying too close attention to the deeper meaning of what is being said from the podium, you might miss a glimpse of the A-, B-, and C-list of luminaries who have also come to see and be seen. As witnessed by this reporter, these include, in reverse order of importance, such names as (C-list) Bianca Jagger, Ellen Burstyn, and Ken Burns; (B-list) Jesse Jackson, Michael Moore, and assorted senators (Charles Schumer, Tom Harkin); and (A-list ... the biggest of the BIG!) Ben Affleck.

You simply don't want to go home having missed a brush with true greatness.

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