Odds and ends

Three things that have recently given me pleasure: a nice quotation from Tom Waits; a headline with the monster compound Alaska drag queen theft suspect; and the brief but still entertaining compound poultry magnate.

1. Breaking open a song. Sasha Frere-Jones, “Gravel Pit: The voice and times of Tom Waits”, New Yorker 10/31/11:

Waits is big on characters, stories, and punch lines. He is often portrayed as a late-night troubadour, but he avoids easy sentimentality by favoring images over confessions, and by privileging hidden artistic connections over the Taser of novelty. “If you break open a song, you’ll find the eggs of other songs,” he told me. (link)

Lovely metaphorical image.

2. Alaska drag queen theft suspect. The headline, as reported to me by Chris Waigl:

Alaska drag queen theft suspect turns up as Arkansas candidate for Congress

The monster compound noun has several possible interpretations, turning on the role of the noun theft in it: a theft of a drag queen? a theft from a drag queen? a theft by a drag queen?

(Compound nouns have the great virtue of brevity, but because they provide no explicit mark of the relationship between their parts, they’re very low on the clarity scale; they can be understood in a huge number of ways, depending on context.)

The man in question is Andrew Caleb Pritt, known as Drew Pritt and sometimes by other names:

Andrew Caleb Pritt, who managed Diane Benson’s 2010 campaign for lieutenant governor [of Alaska], has been accused of raising $3,000 at an Anchorage drag show and auction, pocketing the money and heading south

… A Daily News [of Anchorage] reporter followed Pritt’s trail south and spoke with the man’s father, a preacher, who said he wanted nothing to do with the situation or his son, who had “gone into the gay lifestyle, female impersonations and all that stuff,” according to the story.

Bent Alaska reports that Pritt turned up in Little Rock, at a drag show, using the stage names Diedra Richards Ho Jenkins and Diedra Richards Harrison.

But even more bizarrely, the website Arkansas News reports that when he’s not in drag, Pritt has been campaigning for U.S. Congress. (link)

So it’s a (suspected) theft by a drag queen. Oh, those wacky, volatile drag queens!

Searching on {“Alaska drag queen theft suspect”} pulls up a fair number of sites, but none of them seems to have the compound in the headline or text of the story. Instead, we find things like:

Ark congressional candidate target of theft probe in Alaska [Arkansas News]

Arkansas Congressional candidate suspected of theft in Alaska [Alaska Dispatch]

Proceeds from show benefiting wounded soldier disappear [Anchorage Daily News]

Chris Waigl’s crash-blossom version is much more entertaining than these.

3. Poultry magnates. Most recently, in the NYT on “For Perry, Private Jets Have Been Key to Public Job” by Mike McIntire on November 3rd:

… While executives from the livestock industry did not attend Mr. Perry’s private meeting at the E.P.A., the governor would not have made it there without them — literally. The Hawker 800XP plane that Mr. Perry and his team flew from Austin to Washington and back was provided by Lonnie Pilgrim, one of the world’s largest chicken producers and a leading critic of the ethanol mandate.

Mr. Pilgrim had urged Mr. Perry during a meeting in March to take up the matter, and a lobbyist for Mr. Pilgrim’s company, the Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, worked with the governor’s office to prepare for the waiver request. The poultry magnate also flew the governor to Washington in June to take part in a news conference on the issue. (link)

Back in September, in the Arkansas Times, “Arkie poultry magnate pitches in to Kochs” by Mark Brantley (September 9th):

Mother Jones, in extensive reporting on major fund-raising for conservative political campaigns by the Koch brothers, has compiled an insiders list of the wealthy who have added millions to the Koch bankroll to tear down government regulation and taxes on the wealthy.

An Arkie was credited by the Kochs at a private session (a tape recording of which Mother Jones obtained) as being a major contributor:

The Camerons: Ron Cameron of Little Rock, Arkansas, runs agribusiness giant Mountaire Corporation, which generated $1.22 billion in revenue in 2009. He has donated at least $175,000 to Republicans in recent years, including $5,000 to Sarah Palin’s PAC, according to FEC records. The company itself has given at least $125,000 to outside spending groups over the past decade, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Back in January, on the British site Top News, “Poultry magnate Boparan acquires Northern Foods for £341” by Leonard Moore (January 23rd):

British chilled food magnate Ranjit Boparan triumphed in a battle to acquire Northern Foods, after the Fox’s Biscuits and Goodfella’s pizza-maker backed his 73p-a-share bid.

… Speaking on the deal, poultry magnate Mr. Boparan said, “We look forward to working with the experienced Northern Foods team and combining our skills in product innovation and customer partnerships to create a larger business with enhanced prospects.”

And a few years back, in the Washington Post, “Poultry Magnate Frank Perdue, 84, Dies” by Joe Holley (April 1st, 2005):

Frank Perdue, an Eastern Shore farm boy who saw dollars in drumsticks and whose TV persona become the folksy, public face of the poultry industry in the Northeast, died March 31 at his home in Salisbury of what the family described as a brief illness. (link)

(other stories characterized him as a chicken magnate).

What makes poultry magnate (and chicken magnate) somewhat risible? The combination of the high seriousness, gravitas, of magnate (from the Latin magn- ‘great’ stem) with the down-to-earth poultry. It’s funny to think of great things and great people coming from poultry.

OED3 (March 2000) on magnate:

A great or noble person; a member of the nobility or elite of a particular country; a wealthy, eminent, or influential person, now esp. in the field of business (freq. with distinguishing word).

The specialized uses — Sir Walter Scott described as a literary magnate ‘great man of literature’ and magnate as a title of nobility in some countries — have now pretty much given way to the last sense, restricted to prominent people in business and industry and conveying senses close to mogul and tycoon. So we get (from various sources):

raw-material magnate, sugar magnate, business magnate, railroad magnate, steel magnate, aluminium magnate, banana magnate, trucking magnate, shipping magnate, mining magnate, energy magnate, news magnate, gasoline magnate, computer magnate, grain magnate, drug magnate, lumber magnate

A catalogue of the rich and powerful. Almost all refer to men — a fact about society, not vocabulary — but there are a few women in the bunch, for instance:

home-furnishings magnate Martha Stewart, hair-straightener magnate Madame Walker

Here we are moving from great wheelers and dealers to the merely successful, as in these examples, each with one example magnate man:

pizza magnate Herman Cain, porn magnate Larry Flynt, casino magnate Steve Wynn, stereo magnate Sidney Harman, mall magnate David Simon, (direct-)mailer magnate Peter Valcarce, potato magnate Larry Minor, billboard magnate Michael McNeilly, condom magnate Julius Fromm, soybean magnate Dwayne O. Andreas, home-furnishings magnate Terence Conran, beef magnate David E. Wood, meat magnate Lord Vestey, grocery magnate Albert Heijn, tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton, sausage magnate Jimmy Dean, trash magnate Sidney Torres, hot dog magnate Murray Handwerker, cheese magnate Lino Saputo, deodorant magnate Jonathan Blashette, shampoo magnate Vidal Sassoon, health-care magnate Abe Gosman, soap magnate Lord Leverhulme, shoe magnate Diego Della Valle, underwear magnate William Farley, hosiery magnate Mario Cohen, prostitute magnate Pablo Spinola Fresnan, soccer magnate Mauricio Macri, baseball magnate P.K. Wrigley

It’s hard to take some of these seriously — pizza magnate, condom magnate, sausage magnate, shampoo magnate, and, yes, poultry magnate  — though you can see the inflationary instinct that leads writers to magnate, mogul, and tycoon for successful executives.





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