I missed this story when it came out in 2018. An alleged “senior official in the Trump administration” wrote an anonymous op-ed bragging about how he and others in the White House were secretly working against the president and trying to wreck his presidency–for which he expected praise, presumably. The piece appeared under the pen name, “Lodestar.” (https://nationalpost.com/news/world/who-wrote-the-trump-white-house-resistance-letter-we-asked-some-forensic-linguists)
Enter specialists in “forensic linguistics” to try to identify the author. These scientists say everyone has a distinct way of using language, kind of like a verbal fingerprint, distinctly individual patterns of speech, and that careful analysis can be used to identify an anonymous writer.
At first the prime suspect was Vice President Mike Pence, because he’s been known to use the slightly archaic word, “lodestar.” But anyone who knows Pence could slip a few lodestars into the text as a deception. The experts cottoned onto that pretty quickly.
The upshot of it is, or seems to be, that the author of the “resistance” piece is still unidentified. Prosecutors were able to use forensic linguistics to convict “Unabomber,” some years ago–but there at least they had a 35,000-word “manifesto” to work with, full of quirky phrases that no one else but the defendant would use. How come every wacko has a “manifesto”? Have you ever heard of a Republican who has a manifesto?
Anyway, the president has fired a lot of Deep State creeps since “Lodestar” smote ‘is bloomin’ lyre; so he might’ve fired “Lodestar,” too.
Meanwhile, watch what you say.
I’m happy my own writing style is so mainstream, so ordinary, that there’s just no way I’d ever stand out.
5 comments on “Can Forensic Linguistics Identify ‘Lodestar’?”
When I was in college a hundred years ago, a few of us in our 18th century literature class used to say that on passage-identification tests there were a couple of sure-fire ways we could spot some authors. If the passage used the word “dull,” it was Dryden. If it used “fool,” it was Pope. Of course, it was a good thing we didn’t tell our professor about our “sure-fire” clues — not because he would have chosen passages without those words, but because he would probably have been sneaky enough to choose passages in which Dryden used “fool” and Pope used “dull.” (For the latter, see the ending of “The Dunciad.”) 🙂
As for your mainstream style, Lee, we applaud your modesty but don’t believe it for a minute. Among other clues, few writers that I know use the word “jidrool” the way you do, or drop bits of Italian and Yiddish into the same paragraph. 🙂 🙂 Tee hee. (The first smiley is a “tee” and the second is a “hee.”)
Yep, jidrool. Hilarious word.
I’m no expert, but I’ve seen quotes that purport to be written by C. S. Lewis and are so totally not. He had a distinctive style, and I’ve read enough of his writing to be able to recognize it.
“Jidrool” is a corruption of the Italian word for “cucumber,” used to denote a blundering fool. Why a cucumber? Search me!
I do strive for authorial invisibility in my fantasy novels, though. Can’t use bits of Italian and Yiddish there.
Very interesting post – I had forgotten about the Lodestar scandal. It would be hard to distinguish between rap artists because all the lyrics are full of the F-word.