Archive for the ‘Quotations’ Category

Rodeos and sword dances

May 27, 2017

(Warning: there will be talk of penises and mansex.)

On The Hill site on 5/21, “Tillerson: ‘Not my first sword dance’ in Saudi Arabia”, by Jill Manchester:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that his sword dance the previous night in Saudi Arabia was not his first.

“I hadn’t been practicing, Chris, but it was not my first sword dance,” Tillerson told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace.

Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross linked arms during the dance with Saudi performers on Saturday night. [REDACTED] also took part, swaying to the music, and appeared to enjoy the ceremonial dance. The event took place on [REDACTED]’s first day visiting Saudi Arabia, his first stop on his first foreign trip as president.


Ross and Tillerson sword-dancing among Saudis


On the quote watch

April 14, 2017

An exchange on Facebook a few days ago, provoked by a 4/9/17 piece linking to 4/15/11 story “World’s languages traced back to single African mother tongue: scientists” on PRI (Public Radio International). Various annoyed responses, including, from Ben Zimmer:

No idea why this PRI piece has been making the rounds lately, but it’s about the old 2011 Science paper

My response:

On Facebook, everything old is new again.

— intending to use the boldfaced catchphrase (or cliché) to convey something like ‘fashions and trends are repeated or revived’. Then I wondered about the history of the expression, and found nothing useful in dictionaries of quotations, idioms, and clichés, at least for this wording used in this way. What I found were links to biblical quotations with different wording conveying rather different content; and then, from the 1970s on, a ton of examples of what was clearly recognized as a catchphrase / cliché, used much as I used it above.

As I note here every so often, I am not a lexicographer or a quotes investigator, and I don’t have the resources to pursue the history of expressions in their sociocultural context (though I do hang out with people who do these things, splendidly). So here I’m just setting the problem.


Uneasy lies the head

April 10, 2017

You know about Jimmy Buffet Parrotheads, Wisconsin Cheeseheads, annoying dickheads, and musical Radiohead, and now New Yorker cartoonist Michael Maslin brings us PenguinHead:


(Henry IV, Part 2: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Often quoted as the crown, as in the adaptation in #1.)


No, they didn’t say that

March 31, 2017

A brief book notice for an admirable volume from the Quote Investigator Garson O’Toole. From Ben Yagoda’s excellent review on the CHE’s Lingua Franca blogHemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations on the sources of misattribution.

Garson’s book is not just a collection of misattributed quotes — there are lots of those — but an inquiry into the sources of, reasons for, mechanisms of these misattributions: ten of them.


Two Ztoons on language use

February 27, 2017

The Zippy and the Zits in my comics feed today:




Our allotted span

February 13, 2017

At the Palo Alto Sacred Harp singing yesterday (singing from the 1991 Denson Revision), a moment of mortality (50t), with a 1707 text from Isaac Watts:

(You get humility for free.)


doing fag

February 4, 2017

Or: complex days on the gender presentation front.

From my correspondent RJP, a link to a stunning performance by Filipino model, actor, comedian, and self-proclaimed social media entertainer Sinon Loresca. You can watch it here. A screen capture:


A moment from a fully realized runway / catwalk display done by a man with a highly masculine body; this shot comes just a moment after Loresca punctuates his catwalk routine with a brief pec flex, a bodybuilder’s display.


The highly evolved fashion sense of faggots

January 8, 2017

Over on ADS-L, the hounds have been tracking down a quotation about comparative degrees of cultural evolution in different groups. On the 5th, Stephen Goranson supplied this report of a quotation on the subject, concerning Benjamin Disraeli, twice Prime Minister of the U.K. in Victorian times, and the only P.M. of Jewish birth:

Mr. D’Israeli never forgets — never allows others to forget — that he is of that race whence all our prophets came and Jesus Christ himself was born….

On one occasion, when taunted with being a descendant perhaps of the thief on the cross, he replied, in proud and soul-stirring words, “My blood thrills with the traditions of my race! My ancestors were lords of the tabernacle and princes of Israel when his were naked savages in the woods of Northern Germany.”

Yesterday, Geoff Nunberg supplied a wonderful Italian variant that crucially involves the Italian sexual slur frocio ‘faggot, queer’ (plural froci).


The news for cigars

November 18, 2016

Following up on yesterday’s posting “No cigar”, on a Tom Chitty cartoon with phallic foodstuffs striving to become cigars, two items: You’re no Cigar (Lloyd Bentsen: You’re no Jack Kennedy) and Sometimes a cigar is a lot more than a cigar (apocryphal Sigmund Freud: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar).


Perverted tastes

November 8, 2016

A gift from Kathryn Burlingham in the mail yesterday: a sturdy shopping bag with, on one side, a graphic of melons (canteloupes, specifically); on the other, this quotation from Martin Luther (in English translation):

You pant after
the garlic and watermelons of Egypt
and have already long suffered
from perverted tastes.

That’s Luther, the main figure of the German Reformation, translator of the Bible into German, and prolific writer of hymns — and also an often-incendiary writer and speaker, given to insult (as above).

I’ve been musing about “perverted tastes”. I have a taste, indeed a fondness, for certain perversions, but I doubt these were what Luther had in mind; I suspect his thoughts were on food: foods from the seductive Mediterranean basin, aphrodisiac foods, phallic foods.