Fellating a memory

From Hamilton Nolan on gawker.com, sourly proclaiming “Steve Jobs Was Not God”:

Everyone deserves to be mourned, and well-known people will inevitably be mourned more loudly than others. But it is actually important to keep our grief in perspective. When we start mourning technocrats as idols, we cheapen the lives of those who have sacrificed more for their fellow man.

Steve Jobs was great at what he did. There’s no need to further fellate the man’s memory. He made good computers, he made good phones, he made good music players. He sold them well. He got obscenely rich. He enabled an entire generation of techie design fetishists to walk around with more attractive gadgets. He did not meaningfully reduce poverty, or make life-saving scientific discoveries, or end wars or heal the sick or befriend the friendless.

In the midst of this, figurative fellate taken into new territory.

(Hat tip to Ben Zimmer.)

Similar complaints about Kurt Cobain, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and (surprise!) Shakespeare:

[in response to: “and some of the people who are assholes also don’t like Kurt Cobain”] Or they’re indifferent and are sick of people bitching about how Kurt was a genius, he did no wrong, everyone should love him and fellate his memory, blah blah blah. (link)

[in response to: “Why is [FDR] so controversial?”] In a nutshell: Partisanship. If there were a little R next to his name, you can bet money half the people criticizing him would be lauding him as a flawed hero, much like Senmut’s earlier commentary on Teddy Roosevelt. Most of the people supporting him would probably still do so; their tendency to point out flaws would be roughly proportional to anyone’s attempts to fellate his memory. (link)

When Reagan was in office they said the same thing…when he died…even guys like Ted Kennedy were trying to fellate his memory and praise his accomplishments. (link)

[on the death of Ronald Reagan] I was most annoyed that Fox interrupted their baseball coverage on Saturday–not to give us the news and a 3-minute obit, which would have been fine. No, they ignored the game for 15-20 minutes to show Fox News fellating his memory. (I guess “hagiography” is a polite way to say it.) (link)

[on Ronald Reagan] I feel like lionizing Saint Ronnie is not purely a recent thing in the conservative camp, but I distinctly remember it reaching an all-time high after his death. The media was just fellating his memory nonstop before his corpse was even cold, and it made me SICK. (link)

[on Shakespeare] Also it is more than just reviewers my english teachers always seem to be borderline fellating his memory for all their might. (link)

It’s been a while — over five years — since I posted on metaphorical extensions of fellatio vocabulary. The oeuvre, some of it about the semantics and pragmatics of these usages, much of it about the morphology of fellat- words:

1/31/06: The vocabulary of toadying (link)

2/6/06: Toadying 2: Derived nominalization (link)

2/7/06: Toadying 3: More of the fellat- family (link)

2/8/06: Hellaciously fellatious (link)

(I also have files on cocksucker ‘toady’, suck off ‘adulate, submit to’, and similar vocabulary, though I haven’t posted on these. And files on the metaphorical extension of other sexual vocabulary from reference to providing a sexual service to reference to various shades of accommodation, regard, deference, submission, adulation, or worship: masturbate, jack offstroke fest, circlejerkbend over (for), ass-kissing, and the like.)

From the first of my 2006 postings:

Here I point out that every single member of fellat– family that I’ve mentioned so far has both literal uses (referring to events in which actual dicks are in actual mouths) and metaphorical, or figurative, uses, referring to praising, admiring, pandering, fawning, sycophancy, obsequiousness, and the like — acts, relationships, and attitudes in what I’ll call “the toadying domain”.  Situations in the toadying domain involve two participants, an ADULATOR and a RECIPIENT of the adulation, and there are at least three relevant aspects of the relationship between them: (1) REGARD: the adulator appreciates, admires, possibly worships the recipient, regards the recipient highly; (2) DEFERENCE: the adulator shows deference, submission, or subservience to the recipient; and (3) EAGERNESS TO PLEASE: the adulator is eager to please the recipient.  All three aspects can vary in degree.  Some situations in the toadying domain show a fourth component: (4) THE ICK FACTOR: the adulator is willing to do things they find unpleasant or humiliating in the service of the recipient.  Figurative cocksucking often has a pretty big ick factor.

But the argument structures of these expressions involve two (human) participants. In the memory-fellating examples, we have a further extension, of a metonymical sort, from worshiping someone to worshiping their memory (so that the memory stands in for the person).

[Bonus. Along the way (so to speak), I came across some examples of fellate as the verb in the Way construction (as in He danced his way across the room); the semantics of the construction involves creating a path and moving along it (there’s a considerable literature on the construction, building especially on the treatment in Ray Jackendoff’s Semantic Structures (1990)). So, alongside fuck one’s way to the top, sleep one’s way to success, and the like, we have both literal and figurative occurrences of fellate one’s way:

[literal] Forte owns every dirty gag he’s given — whether offering to fellate his way out of a sticky situation or distracting baddies with a celery stick shoved in his ass — and finds a hilariously twisted counterpart in Kilmer’s Cunth. (link)

[literal, but in jest] It’s kinda sad we no longer live in a world where you can fellate your way to the top. (link)

[figurative] Look, no one criticizes the FO more than Redskins fans, but when I have to hear it from every single blowhard that has been lucky enough to fellate his way to national syndication, I get a little irritated. (link)

[figurative] Of course, the point of all of this, even if he still manages to fellate his way onto the team, is [Jarrett] Bush won’t be on the field when the Packers are on defense. (link) ]





One Response to “Fellating a memory”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From David Stein on Google+:

    Why should we judge someone’s greatness against the accomplishments of those in the healing, helping, feeding, and negotiating fields?

    I think Jobs’ greatness rests on one action: getting rid of those ever present and overly loud boomboxes — when a critical mass started using iPods and those little earbuds, silence filled the air of the streets of the country!

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