Patton Oswalt on Trump, Obama, David Lee Roth, and Rutgers linguistics

At the Writers Guild of America Awards on Sunday night, host Patton Oswalt predictably made some Trump jokes in his opening monologue. What wasn't so predictable was an extended analogy involving '80s hard rocker David Lee Roth and the linguistics department at Rutgers University. The key line: "Donald Trump taking Obama's job would be like if the head of linguistics at Rutgers made fun of David Lee Roth, and David Lee Roth was like, 'I'm gonna take his job.'" A shout-out to Bruce Tesar, chair of the Rutgers linguistics department?

Oswalt's bit starts around 5 minutes into the monologue, after some banter with James Woods, who was in the audience.

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Homophonous phrase of the week

Wondermark for 1/24/2017, In which a Run is made:

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Last night in Sweden

One of the most widely noted aspects of Donald Trump's campaign rally yesterday in Florida was his reference to a terrorist incident the night before in Sweden:

You look at what's happening in Germany,
you look at what's happening last night in Sweden —
Sweden!
Who would believe this? Sweden!
They took in large numbers, they're having problems like they never thought possible.
You look at what's happening in Brussels,
you look at what's happening all over the world, take a look at Nice,
take a look at Paris.

Since no plausibly relevant incident actually occurred the previous evening in Sweden, some people have suggested that the president's remark might refer to a documentary mentioned the night before on Fox. (See also here.) But most of the reaction took the form of jokes, many of them available on Twitter as #LastNightInSweden.

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Marg bar ___

This is a guest post by Reza Mirsajadi, who previously published a version on Facebook.


For much of my adult life, whenever I have had to defend the Iranian people to conservatives, they have fought back with the "Death to America" argument. This more or less amounts to "They [Iranians] want to kill us, they said so!" I am so fed up with these misconceptions, and the news media and translators need to take responsibility for their part in it.

As someone who does a lot of translating, I understand that there is an ethical component to the craft. People rely on your work to understand the Other. For this reason, cultural context is absolutely imperative. The "Death to ___" chant commonly heard in Iranian political protests for well over sixty years, is a mistranslation. Yes, the Farsi word "marg" can translate to "death," but "marg bar ___" translates to "Down with ___", as you can see in the lead photo for the Guardian article "Iranians turn out in force for rallies after call for Trump response", 2/10/2017:

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All Trumped Up

Adam Wren, "'I'm Still All Trumped Up'", Politico Magazine 2/13/2017:

On the first Saturday of Donald Trump’s presidency, as protesters and marchers stormed the nation’s capital and cities around the country, Dick and Jane Ames threw a party. […]

“Oh, Trump—I’m still all Trumped up,” Jane, a retired insurance broker, told me, reveling in the memory of that night […]. Across the table, her husband Dick, 73, a former air traffic controller, smiled and nodded. 

I've assumed that it was the strong positive sense of trump as in "trump card" that led Donald Trump's ancestor to change his name from Drumpf to Trump, and the "trump card" sense clearly bolsters the branding value of the name. So why, I wondered, is "trumped up" normally a bad thing to be?

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"Poop"

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

Yes, the following image from the most recent Weekly Playboy (週刊プレイボーイ Shūkan Pureibōi; not a regional edition of Hugh Hefner's Playboy), is labeled "Poop":

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Gambling Disturb Terrible

A friend of Anne Henochowicz spotted this T-shirt in an Akihabara, Tokyo shop:

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More than cat videos

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"Evidence, data and reasoning"

Now that a black man is no longer president, George Will has stopped obsessing about presidential overuse of first-person singular pronouns, and has turned his attention to other pressing matters, such as the role of liberal higher education in promoting the political ascension of Donald Trump ("Trump and academia actually have a lot in common", 1/27/2017):

Much attention has been given to the non-college-educated voters who rallied to President Trump. Insufficient attention is given to the role of the college miseducated. They, too, are complicit in our current condition because they emerged from their expensive “college experiences” neither disposed nor able to conduct civil, informed arguments. They are thus disarmed when confronted by political people who consider evidence, data and reasoning to be mere conveniences and optional.

"Evidence, data, and reasoning". Good to hear that Mr. Will remains committed in principle to the virtues that he routinely subverts in practice.

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PiaPiaPia

As soon as I saw the reports about the mobile PaPaPa vans roaming the streets of Chengdu (see "PaPaPa" [2/15/17]), I immediately thought of a similar expression with a similar meaning that I heard forty years ago.  On that occasion, someone described to me the actions of a man who was trying (unsuccessfully) to get an erection as "PiaPiaPia".  Since that was the first time I had heard that expression, I didn't know for sure what it meant, but I could pretty well guess.

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"Dick voice": Annoying voices and gender stereotypes

During the 2016 presidential campaign, there was a lot of negative commentary about Hillary Clinton's voice. Some examples from across the political spectrum are compiled and discussed here, and even-the-liberal-The-Atlantic published on "The Science Behind Hating Hillary's Voice".  Since Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump pretty much got a pass for vocal characteristics analogous to Hillary's, it was suggested more than once that the criticism was sexist, most creatively in this reprise of Shout by Dominique Salerno and Laura Hankin.

In fact, considering how many people have criticized aspects of Donald Trump's speaking style, it's striking that there's been so little discussion of his tone of voice as opposed to his rhetorical style and content. But this balance is distinctly different for his senior advisor Stephen Miller — see Kali Holloway, "What makes Trump advisor Stephen Miller so unlikeable?", Salon 2/15/2017. That article leads with a collection of video clips from Miller's recent interviews — here's the audio track:

Holloway's evaluation of those clips is strongly negative, and also distinctly gendered:

If you caught any of those appearances, you may have noticed a few Miller trademark gestures. Empty, reptilian eyes scanning left to right over cue cards. A pouty mouth delivering each insane untruth. And a voice that sounds like every hyper-unlikable, pompous, joyless, self-important authority-on-everything you’ve ever met. Or as Katie McDonough of Fusion puts it, “he has the voice of someone who is a dick.”

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PaPaPa

My, my! What does the signage on this van in Chengdu, Sichuan Province (China) say?

From: "Chinese firm ordered to remove sexually suggestive Valentine’s Day advertisements" (SCMP, 2/15/17).

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Morphosyntactic innovation in the White House?

From the "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 2/14/2017, #12" (starting at 15:23 of the ABC News video):

JONATHAN KARL:  Back in January, the President said that nobody in his campaign had been in touch with the Russians. Now, today, can you still say definitively that nobody on the Trump campaign, not even General Flynn, had any contact with the Russians before the election?

SEAN SPICER: My understanding is that what General Flynn has now expressed is that during the transition period — well, we were very clear that during the transition period, he did fee- he did speak with the ambassador —


JONATHAN KARL: I’m talking about during the campaign.


MR. SPICER: I don’t have any- I- there’s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.

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