mooch(er)- words

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s Boca Moment, the media have been full of references to “the 47 percent”, “makers, not takers”, and “moochers”. Some sites have run with mooch- and moocher- words, coining Moochocracy, Moocherpalooza, and Moochermania in stories about the political events.

(A bunch of hat tips to Victor Steinbok.)

1. Moochocracy. Ed Kilgore in the Washington Monthly (“Heightening the Contradiction”), quoting Jonathan Cohn in The National Review:

With any luck, Romney’s controversial comments will get people to think about these contradictions—and to realize that they like government a lot more than they seem to realize.

and adding the comment:

Change “like” to “hate” in that last sentence, and you have a proposition most of the conservative activists panting for Romney to double down on his harsh words for the Great American Moochocracy would readily endorse.

On -(o)cracy words, prompted by idiocracy, see here.

2. Moocherpalooza. Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic again (“We’ll All Be Moochers Someday. Yay!”):

Will Moocherpalooza have an impact on the presidential campaign? It might. Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and their allies have been decrying the “entitlement society” and supposedly low number of Americans paying federal taxes for some time now. But the specific language and circumstances of Romney’s comments at a May fundraiser, first reported in Mother Jones on Monday, may capture the attention of average Americans in a way those previous speeches and writings did not.

And Noam Scheiber, also in TNR (“No, Romney Doesn’t Believe Half the Country Is Mooching”):

Let’s not kid ourselves: Mitt Romney’s 47% riff is damning whether or not he actually believes what he said. Still, it’s worth pausing briefly to reflect on the chances that a would-be president really thinks half his fellow citizens are moochers.

… In the aftermath of Moocherpalooza, NBC’s First Read despaired that “[e]ven the folks who shell out $50,000 in contributions aren’t going to see an unguarded moment from political candidates.

On -palooza words, prompted by latkepalooza, see here.

3. Moochermania. Reality Chex, quoting Jonathan Cohn:

what the Romney-Ryan-Moochermania crowd misses is that most Americans will be both “makers” and “takers” at different points in their lives, & oftentimes they are both simultaneously.

Michael Quinion’s Affixes site on -mania words (from 9/23/08):

Mental abnormality or obsession; extreme enthusiasm or admiration.

[Greek mania, madness.]

The ending is common in psychiatry to name various kinds of mental problems (megalomania, nymphomania) as is mania itself as a general term. For more details and examples, see the list below.

It is also used more loosely for an enthusiasm such that those showing it seem almost unbalanced; examples here include Beatlemania, balletomania, and Anglomania (excessive admiration of English customs). In this sense, the ending is frequently used in journalism to create words for short-term purposes, as in Euro-mania, enthusiasm for European integration regarded as excessive, or lotterymania, an extreme desire to take part in lotteries.

4. Moocherville. Now to a moocher- word not specifically related to Romney. Plenty of ghits, in different senses. Still in the political arena, here’s a parody of “I am the very model of a modern Major General”entitled “John Galt’s Lonesome Libertarian Lament” (of 3/6/11):

I am the very model of a modern major industrialist
You people call me selfish, but I prefer ‘objectivist”
The looters and the moochers, they try to take what is mine
To share my genius with others, I’m afraid I must decline
… [chorus]
He’s leaving Moocherville on his private choo-choo train
He does not like the likes of you, on his parade you will not rain
He’s not a social butterfly, on this he must abstain

And then mooching food, as in “Mooching & other tidbits” by Shannon Patrick 11/15/08:

Speaking of eating, the twins ate dinner before us tonight because Mark was making a spicy dish (way too spicy for them; Way too spicy for me too!), so they didn’t eat with us. Once it was our turn to eat, it turned into moocherville! Kate and Carson are the absolute worst food moochers on the planet. I know most, if not all, of this is my fault, but now it seems like a train we can’t stop.

Here we have the libfix -ville; from Quinion on 9/23/08:

A fictitious place indicating some quality.

[French ville, town.]

This suffix is of US origin, where many real place names end in -ville. Examples are usually used humorously and negatively: dullsville, the quintessentially dull provincial town, hence something or somewhere boring; nowheresville, an isolated place where there no prospect of success or opportunity for advancement, so a job or position with these qualities; pleasantville, the archetypal nice place to be (also the title of a film in 1998 and the name of several real towns in the US). The suffix is active, generating transient forms such as bribesville for a place where corruption is endemic. Sometimes words are given initial capitals, as though they were actual place names.

Words in -ville have primary accent on their first element, a property that distinguishes this ‘fictitious place’ formation from ‘fictitious place’ compounds in City, which have primary accent on City. From a Language Log posting some time ago, taking off from mail from Cole Paulston on 2/11/07 about “This new girl is random city!  We have nothing in common!”,

… adding that he also had noted occurrences of “weird city” referring to people. Both have an adjective X. Paulson posted his observations to ADS-L on 2/19/07. Dennis Preston then suggested that “Fat City” was the original, and added that in his perceptual dialectology work in the 1980s he got lots of “N City” nonce names for areas of the U.S.: “Rebel City” (the South), “Eskimo City” (Alaska), “Cowboy City”, etc.

I added that I’d been assuming that the original had a noun X; at some point we got “Sin City”, and then “Spin City” (the television sitcom) as a take-off on that. More recently, we get adjective Xs, and the use of the formula has extended from place/region names to predicatives applicable to all sorts of things (or people).  These extensions could be from “N City” examples, or they could have developed from “the Adj City” names (like “the Windy City” for Chicago), with the common-noun construction, having a definite article, turned into an anarthrous proper name. Or, of course, both.

I suggested that the early uses of “Fat City” were for actual places — “Los Angeles is Fat City”, meaning it’s a place of opportunity or success  — or for metaphorical places, as in “I’m in Fat City now” (note the preposition), meaning I’ve achieved success.

Finally, I noted “X City” examples with X probably to be analyzed as a verb: “suck city” (city that sucks), “barf city” (a place that makes you want to vomit, or the act of vomiting), “fuck city” (a place where you can get laid, or getting laid).

5. mooch(er). These are venerable colloquial words of English, though it took some centuries for them to develop the senses in Moochocracy etc.

Putting aside uses that have to do with picking blackberries or fishing (I’m not making this up), the earliest attestations of the verb mooch in OED3 (Dec. 2002) have the sense

intr. To be miserly; to be a hoarder. Also trans.: to hoard. [from 14th c.]

Then separate but related senses

intr. To play truant from school [from 1622]

intr. To loaf, to skulk, to sneak. Now esp.: to loiter aimlessly; to dawdle in a bored or listless manner; to slouch. Freq. with about, along, around, off. [from 1851]

Eventually we get to slangy scrounging:

intr. To sponge on or off a person; to go about scrounging. [from 1857]

trans. To scrounge, cadge (money, food, goods, etc.); to beg (a person) for something; to work (a place) by begging or scrounging. [from 1865; note the variety of argument structures]

The agent noun moocher has a number of senses — notably ‘loafer’ and ‘scrounger’:

A person who loiters aimlessly; a loafer. Also: an opportunist poacher or pilferer; a petty thief. [from 15th c.]

A beggar, a scrounger. [from 1857]

The negative affect and colloquial style of these words have been preserved for nearly 700 years. Now they show up in disparaging talk about those who don’t pay any income tax.




6 Responses to “mooch(er)- words”

  1. Chris Waigl Says:

    “Moochergate” has been sighted, predictably.

  2. Victor SteinbokOh, Says:

    I was looking for this yesterday, but apparently mistyped the search string: Moocherland.
    Mooncat at LeftInAlabama blog copies the map from the Tax Foundation that shows the percentage and rank of each state by the relative number of non-tax-payers that comprise the 47%. The title, “Moocherland, As Mitt Romney Defines It”.

  3. Jens Fiederer Says:

    Always makes me think of:

  4. Lift up your heads, O ye gates « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] reports on the -gate front: on September 20th, in a comment from Chris Waigl on my mooch(er)- word posting, moochergate; and in the September 24th New Yorker, a Talk of the Town piece […]

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