Archive for the ‘Language and politics’ Category

Vote for me!

May 13, 2022

From yesterday’s posting “Three responsibilities”:

I voted today in Palo Alto — in the primary election whose official date is 6/7; official results are to be reported by 7/15, and then the top two candidates in each contest will stand opposed in the general election whose official date is 11/8.

… As it happens, my grandchild Opal is about to vote for the first time, and they have been astounded by the candidates’ statements in our [Santa Clara County] voter information guide

Now, about the statements (and the way candidates have had themselves listed on the ballot), focusing on the language used in the statements and the way the candidates present themselves there as gendered.

I’ll do this page by page, picking out highlights and adding my own comments as I go.

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LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS BLACK WOMEN

April 15, 2022

What I posted to Facebook on 4/8, on the occasion of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. My follow-up said that, yes, the reference was to Agee (the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, on which more below) and added:

 I can’t begin to say how pleasing KBJ’s appointment is to me.

To amplify a bit. This is not the Promised Land, but it is nevertheless a Big Fucking Deal. One of the things about my hero John Lewis that moved me especially was that he truly believed that we could reach the Promised Land in this life (not in an afterlife on Jordan’s other bank) — just not in his life, it would take some time. [More below on Lewis and this astonishing bit of faith on his part.] Meanwhile [Lewis believed], we have to keep moving on the path. KBJ is a highly visible step on the path, and that’s a big thing, a moment of joy.

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The Z of death

March 12, 2022

From Andras Kornai on Facebook today:

AK: As they say on Sesame Street: brought to you by the letter Z!


(#1) A tank (Andras says it’s a Pantsir missile system) with the glyph Z on it — not a letter in the Cyrillic alphabet (in which both Ukrainian and Russian are written) and now symbolizing the Russian iron fist of death

Livia Polanyi [pursuing the Sesame Street theme]: Zombie zombie zombie starts with Z

AZ > LP: The letter Z long ago became part of my identity, a symbol of who I was. Now it’s become the equivalent of a swastika, and I feel that I have personally been assaulted, dirtied, and shamed. (I manage to surmount Z is for Zombie as just a piece of cultural silliness. But the Z on the tanks is, literally, dead serious.)

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Pandering to the bass

June 6, 2021

About a Wayno/Piraro Bizarro from 5/29, which turns on the title phrase pandering to the bass being understood as a pun:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

We are to understand pandering to the bass as a pun on pandering to the base (which has become a stock expression in political contexts), and, given the image and text of the cartoon, as involving bass (/bes/ rather than /bæs/) ‘someone who plays the bass guitar in a rock band’ (rather than in one of 7 or 8 other possible senses).

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The octocrat

February 9, 2021

Yesterday’s (2/8) Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, with a pun on autocrat: octocrat, itself a portmanteau of octopus and autocrat:


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

To come: notes on the words involved; some facts about octopuses that make them symbolically powerful; the octopus in political cartoons; and Wayno’s title for this cartoon, “Eight Arms to Oppress You”, with its allusion to the Ring verse from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

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Jay Gould

January 14, 2021

(The second of three morning names from some time ago.)

From Wikipedia:

Jason [generally known as Jay] Gould (May 27, 1836 – December 2, 1892) was an American railroad magnate and financial speculator who is generally identified as one of the robber barons of the Gilded Age. His sharp and often unscrupulous business practices made him one of the wealthiest men of the late nineteenth century. Gould was an unpopular figure during his life and remains controversial.

Gould’s sharp business practices made him the target of the political cartoonists of the day, who churned out wicked caricatures of him.

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Pandemic gifts

May 25, 2020

[some corrections from an earlier versiom]

From Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on Sunday, some delightful small gifts for this difficult time: two face masks — a piece of op art turned into a mask, and a fanciful Emperor Penguin [Elizabeth insists it’s an Emperor, but I was convinced it was a King] with a crown — and a very large, very political tea towel.

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Zippy for President

May 24, 2020

Am I elected yet? Am I re-elected yet? Zippyclone examples from the US presidential elections in 1984 and 1988. The big campaign poster from 1984, with the former variant:


(#1) Taco sauce in hand, Ding Dongs at the ready, Zippy throws his topknot into the electoral ring, challenging President Ronald Reagan and former Vice President Walter Mondale (Hat tip: Tom Frenkel)

It looks like Zippy is a perpetual independent candidate, but most of the campaign literature is in comic books, calendars, and posters, rather than in the strips. I’ve found one strip on his presidential runs, from 2012 (in the mainstream: incumbent President Barack Obama vs. former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney):

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Clouds of glory

April 4, 2020

On Facebook, Bob Richmond reported returning to his mother’s copy of Page’s British Poets of the Nineteenth Century, to muse on a favorite passage of hers from William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”. In the passage he posted about on Facebook, this excerpt:

Not in entire forgetfulness
And not in utter nakedness
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home

Ah, immediate clang for me: the Sacred Harp (1991 Denson revision), 480, Redemption (words and setting by John T. Hocutt, 1959), with the chorus:

Oh, His blood was shed that we might live
With Him when life is o’er,
And upon the clouds of glory ride
Safe to that peaceful shore.

I’ve long been moved by the idea of riding upon those clouds of glory, and now it seems that Wordsworth is the source of the phrase — here, and in other places as well.

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Keep lettin’ him snooze

April 3, 2020

In the One Big Happy from 3/11, Ruthie belts her heart out for her dolls:


(#1) An intentional parody — well, burlesque, or travesty — performed with great enthusiasm by Ruthie

Look at the first panel of the cartoon. If the prosody of the first line, “Keep lettin’ him snooze”, doesn’t clue you in to the song being parodied, then maybe the diambic last line of the first stanza, “No spoon, one fork”, will do the trick. Or… you can wait for the last stanza, in the fourth panel, where Ruthie gives it to you straight.

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