Converse all-stars

The story starts with an instance of semantically reversed impervious (to) — a converse use of a predicate adjective. From Anat Shenker-Osorio, the founder of ASO Communications, interviewed on 10/11 on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. From the transcript:

… What we find in experiment after experiment is that when people have already cemented a world view, they in essence have a frame around what is occurring, then facts are simply impervious to it. They bounce off of it, right?

… And so it`s precisely as you said. If they have an existing story line about, quote, unquote, what Democrats do and how they behave, then facts are pretty much impervious to it.

The relevant sense of impervious in the quotes from Shenker-Osorio is sense b in NOAD:

adj. impervious: [a]  not allowing fluid to pass through: an impervious layer of basaltic clay. [b] [predicative] (impervious to) unable to be affected by: he worked, apparently impervious to the heat.

But what Shenker-Osorio intends to convey here is not that facts cannot be affected by beliefs — world view, frame, or story line — but that beliefs cannot be affected by facts. She’s using impervious to convey the converse of its customary meaning. This works pretty smoothly because we’re inclined to believe that facts stand on their own, regardless of what people believe, so that unconsciously we reject the expected meaning and reason that its converse must have been what Shenker-Osorio intended to convey. This unconscious reasoning works whether the original was just an inadvertent error — people often reverse participant roles (famously in “You’re my biggest fan!” said to a celebrity) — or represents an entrenched non-standard usage, as seems to be the case for Shenker-Osorio.

It’s then reasonable to ask why people do converse switches like this one (which I’ve come to call, in my playful fashion, converse all-stars); presumably the answer lies in pragmatics and discourse organization, but I don’t at the moment have a general account of the phenomena, and I encourage others to take up the question.

Relational nouns: two converse all-stars. From previous postings of mine, two converse uses of a relational noun:

— from my 10/10/11 posting “Semantic reversals 1: ancestor/descendant”: ancestor used for its converse, for example:

An unlikely, close-knit bond develops between ancestors of slaves and the ancestors of their slave masters.

— from my 10/6/12 posting “Semantic reversals 2: benefactor/beneficiary”: benefactor where its converse beneficiary would be expected: a semantic reversal for benefactor, which has picked up the meaning ‘one who gets benefits’ in addition to the meaning ‘one who gives benefits’. Fr example:

[Homeless man John Cornelius Foley] was an early benefactor of gentrification.

From my files, another relational noun and a verb.

— converse use of the predicate noun (a) match (for) in be no match for, reported by Charlie Doyle in ADS-L, 4/28/11:

An Atlanta newscaster on TV just reported, regarded a mobile home that a tornado had flung into a line of trees, killing the two occupants, “The winds were no match for the mobile home.”

— converse use of the verb sustain (in sense ‘inflict’), as reported by Jon Lighter in ADS-L, 11/9/11:

An English archaeologist on a National Geographic show inspects a seventh-century skull and finds: “a sharp injury that was sustained by a sword or an ax.

And now for something completely different. I turn now from converses in semantics to

Converses on the basketball court. From Wikipedia:

Chuck Taylor All-Stars or Converse All Stars (also referred to as “Converse”, “Chuck Taylors”, “Chucks”, “Cons”, “All Stars”, and “Chucky T’s”) is a model of casual shoe manufactured by Converse (a subsidiary of Nike, Inc. since 2003) that was initially developed as a basketball shoe in the early 20th century.

(#1) Classic high-top Converse All-Star shoe: the bearer of much cultural meaning

… Although Chuck Taylor All-Stars had vanished from the professional basketball scene by 1979, they continued to flourish in popular culture and fashion as casual footwear. As fashion icons, Chuck Taylors have played a role in several subcultures, which the company has promoted as part of the brand’s ongoing cultural popularity. In addition, Chuck Taylor All-Stars have continued to prove their iconic status through their use and portrayal in film, art, and music culture, as well as some sports sub-cultures such as powerlifting and skateboarding.

Chuck Taylors are culturally associated with authenticity. They were popularized by James Dean for rebels and outcasts. They were also associated with Andy Warhol, Kurt Cobain, the Ramones, and Karl Lagerfeld. [And have been worn by many (primarily male) actors in (primarily American) movies and tv.]

They are well-designed for basketball (and some other athletic activities). But they’ve also become the bearers of a collection of cultural meanings: athleticism, masculinity, Americanness, authenticity (vs. pretense). Though Converses would probably have supported and eased my flat feet, I would never have worn them, because I felt that would be false cultural advertising: I was not a jock or sports fan (but rather a kind of anti-sports figure) and not a guy guy (but instead projected a kind of nice-guy homomasculinity). On similar grounds, I never wore a leather (or any other kind of) harness, even though when I was really fit, one would have really shown off my chest; it would have seemed like making a false claim to being a leatherman.

The name. From Wikipedia:

Forty seven-year-old Marquis Mills Converse, a manager at a footwear manufacturing firm, opened the Converse Rubber Shoe Company in February 1908 in Malden, Massachusetts. The company was a rubber shoe manufacturer, providing winterized rubber-soled footwear for men, women, and children. By 1910, Converse was producing shoes daily, but it was not until 1915 that the company began manufacturing athletic shoes

So: Converse shoes from the Converse company, named after its founder, with the family name Converse.

And that name Converse is a variant of the Anglo-Norman name Conyers, with a name based on placenames in northern France.

(Meanwhile, the English common noun cónvèrse as a term of semantics is ultimately from Latin conversus ‘turned about’, past participle of convertere (from which, English convert). And, yes, the English verb convérse — also, the noun conversation — goes back to a form of convertere too, but by a different route.)

Converse as a family name immediately reminded me of the American actor Frank Converse (born 5/22/38) — shown below in a head shot advertising the tv show Coronet Blue:

(#2) The hunky Frank Converse at the height of his career

And I recalled thinking that, given his name — and his frame (6ʹ2ʺ with broad shoulders) — he should really have played the lead role (high school basketball coach Ken Reeves) in the American tv show The White Shadow: then we’d have had Converse in Converses. The part was, however, taken by the actor Ken Howard, who not only looked the part — he could easily be Frank Converse’s brother — but had in fact been a basketball coach (some discussion in my 3/26/16 posting “Ken Howard”):

(#3) Ken Howard p.r. shot for The White Shadow

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