Subtle and not-so-subtle allusions

From Monday’s NYT, Nicholas Kulish, “A Stolen Car Leaves Party in Germany at a Loss”:

Ulla Schmidt, the German health minister, had her chauffeur drive her armored Mercedes S-class official vehicle some 1,500 miles from Germany to Spain, where she is vacationing on the coast near Alicante. Voters back home probably never would have been the wiser had thieves not stolen the car, leaving Ms. Schmidt without a vehicle but with some explaining to do.

What caught my notice was the wording “with some explaining to do”. This might have been just ordinary English — it’s easy to find instances of “have some explaining to do” and its variants — but since it was used about a woman, I heard a faint echo of Desi Arnaz, as Ricky Ricardo, shouting at his wife on I Love Lucy: “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!” Maybe yes, maybe no.

But Ricky’s rant has been (non-subtly) in the news recently, during the hearings on Sonia Sotomayor’s candidacy for the Supreme Court of the U.S. Here’s Frank Rich in an NYT op-ed piece of the 18th, entitled “They Got Some ‘Splainin’ to Do”:

… when [Republican Senator] Tom Coburn of Oklahoma merrily joked to Sotomayor that “You’ll have lots of ’splainin’ to do,” it clearly didn’t occur to him that such mindless condescension helps explain why the fastest-growing demographic group in the nation [Hispanics] is bolting his party.

Coburn wouldn’t know that behind the fictional caricature Ricky Ricardo was the innovative and brilliant Cuban-American show-business mogul Desi Arnaz. As Lucie Arnaz, his and Lucille Ball’s daughter, told me last week, it always seemed unfair to her that those laughing at her father’s English usually lacked his fluency in two languages.

The Coburn quip was variously reported in other places, mostly with “explaining” instead of ” ‘splainin’ “. Either way, I don’t see a lot of merriment in the responses to it.

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