By Geoffrey Nunberg
Listening to president Barack Obama's inaugural address, I thought of a star diver coming to the board for the final dive of the competition, with the obligatory moves needed to win spelled out precisely: Acknowledge the gravity of the economic crisis without being alarming; reassure Americans that things will get better without raising unrealistic expectations; call for unity and responsibility; remind our enemies of our resolve without sounding belligerent. Be eloquent without grandiloquence.
And like a disciplined champion, Obama delivered exactly as much as was required....
Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist who teaches at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, is author of the forthcoming "The Years of Talking Dangerously."