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Quick -- Obama's Speech. Think 'Salmon.'

by Michael D. Shear
New York Times, January 26, 2011

NPR asked their listeners to describe President Obama's State of the Union address in three words. This is a word cloud of the responses they received - more than 12,000 words in all. This can't possibly be what the White House was hoping for as they slaved for weeks over President Obama's State of the Union address.

Immediately after the 6,955-word speech, NPR asked people which words stuck in their minds after they heard it.

The single most common response: "Salmon."

Of course, that's a result of a joke that Mr. Obama told about halfway through the speech, as he sought to explain the need to eliminate overlapping responsibilities among federal agencies.

"Then there's my favorite example," he said. "The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in freshwater, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater. I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

It was by far the lightest moment in a speech that had few jokes. (Mr. Obama tried a line that might have been funny -- about the worst way to lighten the load on a plane -- but it fell flat.)

No, if funny was what you were looking for, salmon was about it. And apparently, many of NPR's listeners were looking for funny.

Just to be sure, the public radio network tried separating its more than 4,000 respondents by political party. But it didn't matter: Republicans, Democrats and Independents all said "salmon" more often than anything else.

The New York Times has done similar word clouds before. On Election Day in 2008, The Times asked people to send in the word that best described their mood. Among the top responses: "hopeful," "optimistic," "relieved" and "inspired."

No fish -- saltwater, freshwater or smoked.

Michael D. Shear
Quick -- Obama's Speech. Think 'Salmon.'
New York Times, January 26, 2011

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