Archive for the ‘Language and poitics’ Category

The way we were

February 25, 2017

A news item that’s been in my posting queue since last October: in the October 2016 issue of The Atlantic, “Big in Denmark: The U.S. Ambassador” by Amy Weiss-Meyer, beginning:

When Rufus Gifford, the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, won a Danish television award for his reality show, he ran onto the stage, beaming. “Oh man,” he said, surprised. “Wow.” The show, Jeg Er Ambassadøren fra Amerika (or I Am the Ambassador From America), was renewed for a second season (and will come to U.S. viewers this fall via Netflix [I am watching it as I write this]). A Danish biography of Gifford was a best seller. At a music festival in June, the chart-topping Danish pop band Lukas Graham dedicated its song “Nice Guy” to him.

“Rufus Gifford is a rock star,” Nicolai Wammen, a Danish MP and a friend of Gifford’s, told me. As an appointee of President Obama’s, Gifford is likely nearing the end of his diplomatic stint, though Danes frequently ask him to stay. His biographer, Stéphanie Surrugue, remembers walking alongside Gifford at a political gathering and noticing that he was getting as much attention as the nearby prime minister. “People were shouting ‘Rufus!’ as they were shouting ‘Lars’ after the prime minister.” It was, she says, “a little bit crazy.”



IN in the news

February 21, 2017

The lesson for the day begins with a news story. From yesterday in the Guardian:

British Muslim teacher denied entry to US on school trip: Juhel Miah from south Wales was removed from plane in Reykjavik despite suspension of president’s travel ban … A council spokesman said Miah was left feeling belittled at what it described as “an unjustified act of discrimination”. The council said the teacher is a British citizen and does not have dual nationality.

Then from Nadim Zaidi on Facebook, commenting on this:

These stories are becoming so commonplace that I don’t even bat an eye at them anymore. And that is how it starts, through normalization. More specifically, banality, the banality of evil, as Hannah Arendt wrote.

That’s normalization, the nominalization of innovative normalize (IN) — ‘render normal [‘acceptable’] that which was previously deemed beyond acceptable bounds’  used in a political context. From Emily Dreyfus in Wired 11/23/16:

Long before [[REDACTED]] became the president-elect, his detractors warned against “normalizing” his myriad violations of campaign decorum: the bigotry and misogyny, the Putin-philia and cavalier talk about nuclear weapons. Since [his] election …, “don’t normalize this” has become a liberal mantra, a reminder to stay vigilant in the face of aberrant presidential behavior that Americans may feel tempted — or emotionally bludgeoned — into excusing as just the way the country works now.


Borne again

February 1, 2017

… on the wings of prayer. Yesterday’s Bizarro:


(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

Born-again birds of prey, evangelizing Brother Owl.


Politically prescient G&S

August 5, 2016

Two days ago, a political portmanteau (about Herr Drumpf) committed by Susan Fischer on Facebook:

So when Donald goes off on a rant, is it a tantrump?

To which I replied, bowing to Sir Arthur Sullivan:

Loudly let the trumpet bray!
Tantantarump, tantantarump!


Leaving, in tears and a portmanteau

June 25, 2016

Passed on by Facebook friends (especially Arthur Prokosch), this Dan Wasserman editorial cartoon in the Boston Globe on the 16th:

Here we are in Portmantexia, a land of words in –exit, –leave, and –out, a land that people want to abandon. The leading family in Portmantexia is the Exits, especially the recently prominent Brexit, towering above cousins Grexit, Crexit, the infant Trexit, the black sheep Texit, and the newborns Nexit and Frexit.


Primary barbeque

March 15, 2016

Yesterday on the NYT‘s op-ed page, in advance of today’s primary elections (in FL, IL, MO, NC, and OH, plus the Northern Marianas), a wryly funny piece by the great sociologist of the South and authority on North Carolina barbecue (and old friend of mine) John Shelton Reed, “North Carolina and the Politics of Barbecue”, beginning:

Chapel Hill, N.C. — Tuesday is Primary Day in North Carolina, and while things like trade, immigration and the deficit will help people pick their candidate for president, there’s another issue that has an outsize impact on how the Tar Heel State votes: barbecue.

Year in and year out, the way a politician approaches the question of cooked meat determines how he fares at the polls. As Herbert O’Keefe, the editor of The Raleigh Times in the 1950s, once said, “No man has ever been elected governor of North Carolina without eating more barbecue than was good for him.”


Name news

December 4, 2014

Briefly noted, two pieces of news about names: the annual report on the year’s most popular baby names; and the uniqueness of the name Jong-Un in North Korea.