“We” Before “I”

In Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, the President only incorporated 56 first-person singular pronouns (e.g. I, I’d, I’ll, I’m, I’ve, me, mine, myself) into his speech, or 0.8 percent of the words he spoke Tuesday evening. That marks the lowest number and percentage across his four addresses to date, speaking 120 such pronouns in 2010 (1.7 percent), 73 in 2011 (1.1 percent), and 95 in 2012 (1.4 percent). By contrast, Obama used 306 first-person plural pronouns (e.g. we, we’d, we’ll, we’re, we’ve, us, let’s, our, ours, ourselves) in his recent speech, or 4.5 percent of the words he used, which is slightly less than his tallies in 2011 (354) and 2010 (321), but ahead of 2012 (210). The president’s ratio of first-person plural to singular pronouns in 2013 was 5.46 to 1 – the largest of the four addresses with 2011 at 4.85 to 1, 2010 at 2.68 to 1, and 2012 at 2.21 to 1.

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