Further to my question about the meaning of "If you must know" in Washington Post’s article on CPAC conference which I posted this morning in the forum, I stumbled on a phrase: the Sarah Palin impersonator.

According to the article, the votes resulted in Texas Rep. Ron Paul coming up in the 1st place, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the 2nd place. That said, why Sarah Palin impersonator is not impersonators. As long as the impersonator is in singular form, who is very Sarah Palin impersonator? It can be simply many republicans who are followers of Sara Palin's credos and her action patterns. But in that case, inpersonator should be in plural form. Am I wrong?

Could you explain who the Sarah Palin impersonator is?

The Conservative Political Action Conference is over. The thousands of activists who converged on northwest Washington have begun returning home. The Sarah Palin impersonator has left the building.

  • Given Sarah Palin's global popularity, I think the word 'decoy' could be used.
    – Orbling
    Feb 14, 2011 at 1:01
  • or doppelgänger, if you're fussy
    – fortunate1
    Feb 14, 2011 at 1:25

3 Answers 3


The "Sarah Palin impersonator" refers to an actual Sarah Palin impersonator, a person who showed up at the meeting impersonating Sarah Palin. This person gained their 15 minutes of fame on broadcast television, but was otherwise not mentioned by the news media.

  • Dour High Arch. Now it makes a sence to me. I wish the writer be more specific to the said impersonator for the benefit of readers' understanding. Feb 14, 2011 at 0:45
  • 3
    Readers of The Politico can safely be assumed to be very familiar with events at CPAC, if you get my drift. Feb 14, 2011 at 0:53
  • @YoichiOishi It shouldn't be necessary, when writing "the Sarah Palin impersonator" to explain that you actually mean a Sarah Palin impersonator. Otherwise I would have to explain that in the previous sentence when I wrote "it shouldn't be necessary" I actually mean "it shouldn't be necessary". And by "explain" I mean "explain". And so on. Dec 3, 2015 at 16:18

Dour High Arch has this one correct. It was an actual, literal Sarah Palin impersonator: someone who got made up to look like Sarah Palin.

Oishi-san, this might be a good time to review the definition of impersonator:

impersonator: someone who pretends to be (another person) as entertainment or in order to deceive someone

In this case, entertainment might have been the object, but the intent was certainly to deceive. The article doesn't mean the other Reupblican candidates were mimicking the style of Sarah Palin, it means one person was actually pretending to be Sarah Palin.

Note that the article says

The Sarah Palin impersonator has left the building.

This is meant to echo the famous line:

Elvis has left the building.

which used to be announced at the end of Elvis Presley concerts so that the screaming fans would stop chanting for him to return and give yet another encore. The reason the article uses this construction is to emphasize the fact that the CPAC is officially over and everyone can go home and stop pretending something is still happening there. Short version: no more news is coming out of the CPAC, folks. Let's move on.

  • 1
    +1 for the analysis, and for adding something that has not been said in other answers.
    – apaderno
    Feb 14, 2011 at 1:14
  • Robusto-san. So impersonator here is not refering to an actual impersonator whom High Dour Arch mentioned, and who performed something in the conference, but to 'every' voters who conceives him /herself Sala Palin's followers? Feb 14, 2011 at 3:16
  • I got three alternative interpretations of the Sala Palin’s impersonator in singular form in the above question. They are: 1. it’s simply a metaphor, not referring to a specific person or persons. Therefore, it is not unnatural to be in singular form. 2. There was an actual, literal Sala Palin impersonator in the conference. Therefore it’s in singular format. 3. The Sala Palin’s impersonator means all participants or individual participant of CPAC as a mass. Therefore, it can be treated in singular form as a collective noun. All explanations sound reasonable. What the conclusion is? Feb 14, 2011 at 4:46
  • @Yoichi Oishi: Oishi-san, #2 would be the "correct" answer, but there is more nuance than that. The bit about the impersonator was thrown into the article as a stylistic flourish meant to trivialize the outcome of CPAC and get a laugh from the reader. To a non-native speaker, it must seem to be a bit of a "red herring" — a misleading extra piece of information that can only distract and confuse those who do not have an extensive familiarity with American culture.
    – Robusto
    Feb 14, 2011 at 9:23
  • Thanks Robusto-san. I was either comfortable with #2, simply because of my sticking to number issue of noun. But it seems the matter is more concerned with the depth of understanding of American culture as you say. To be regret, that is beyond non-native learner’s ability. Feb 14, 2011 at 10:46

It sounds to me like the author is speaking metaphorically. The Conservative Political Action Conference itself impersonated the style of Sarah Palin.

It can be simply many republicans who are followers of Sara Palin's credos and her action patterns. But in that case, 'inpersonator' should be in plural form. Am I wrong?

Since it was a metaphor, there was not a specific "impersonator" or "impersonators" referred to. It makes sense to speak in the singular.

EDIT: It seems there was an actual impersonator there, so the statement wasn't necessarily metaphorical. Good catch Dour High Arch.

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