I'm against it, myself

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Commenting on a link to Conor Pope, "New poll shows Labour support nose-diving", Irish Times 3/30/2013, B.H. remarks that "If I knew what it was, I might do it for them …"

The obligatory screenshot:

The OED's entry for nosedive indicates that it originated in reference to airplanes: "Aeronaut. A steep downward descent by an aircraft with the nose first". The earliest OED citation is from1912:

1912   Flight 31 Aug. 787/1   The machine at once started a spiral nose-dive.
1917   ‘I. Hay’ Carrying On i. 17   Next moment she [sc. the aeroplane] lurched again, and then took a ‘nose-dive’ straight into the British trenches.

Note that the joke is better in varieties of English that use plural verb agreement with singular collective nouns like "Labour".

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19 Comments »

  1. Gene Callahan said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 7:16 am

    'Note that the joke is better in varieties of English that use plural verb agreement with singular collective nouns like "Labour".'

    Yes, I had to re-read it with that in mind to get the joke.

  2. Oskar Sigvardsson said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 7:21 am

    I still don't get the joke.

  3. Jeroen Mostert said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 7:46 am

    @Oskar: you can read it as "a new poll shows that Labour support [the action known as] nosediving" rather than "a new poll shows that the support for Labour is nosediving".

  4. Phillip Jennings said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 7:49 am

    Obviously the British Labour party, or supporters self-identified by a poll, are in favor of the practice of 'nose-diving', something at least slightly controversial, whatever it is. It's likely one of those things they do over there, like 'train-spotting,' that sounds worse than it is (nothing to do with defacing trains.)

  5. Martin J Ball said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 9:07 am

    @Phillip Jennings NOT the British Labour party, but the Irish Labour party, which I would've thought might've been clear from the fact it's the Irish Times reporting this story…

    Also – these 'joke' readings only ever seem to occur to north American readers – for me this is not obviously ambiguous!

    [(myl) B.H., who sent in the link, is Irish. FWIW.]

  6. Nick Lamb said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 9:56 am

    Martin, as a native British English speaker I found the joke funny enough although obviously I probably wouldn't have stumbled at interpreting this headline if I saw it in its natural habitat.

    As to the "Irish Times" being a giveaway, I suspect you significantly overestimate the extent to which non-locals are even aware the Republic exists. Likewise, the chances of non-locals knowing Gilmore is the leader of the /Irish/ Labour Party (or indeed knowing the name of the present leader of the British Labour Party without Googling) are slim.

    They've maybe heard of Ireland, but only in the same vague way that people have heard of Patagonia (not a country) Tibet (ditto) or Southern Sudan (now finally a country under the name Republic of South Sudan). So why shouldn't this just be one more regional newspaper from the United Kingdom? They speak English, they're off the left hand coast of Europe, must be British right? People's knowledge of political geography, when it's not completely non-existent, tends to become rather stale.

  7. J.W. Brewer said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 9:57 am

    The wording in the subhed "on just 7 percent" (rather than, say "at just 7%) seems very bizarre to me and probably ungrammatical, but perhaps that's just an AmEng/IrEng distinction?

  8. J.W. Brewer said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 10:10 am

    @Nick Lamb: most US newspaper readers are aware of the existence of the Republic of Ireland (certainly as compared to their knowledge of the politics of Patagonia), due to the reasonably high political (and thus media) salience of Irish-American politicians and their intermittent interest in the tribal squabbles of their distant cousins in the Old Country (not to mention the non-trivial odds that they are at least in part themselves Irish-American or have in-laws/neighbors/etc. who are). But the minority that know even a little bit about politics in the Republic probably primarily recall the interesting fact that the two (historically) major parties there have striking-sounding Gaelic names (the FF one and the FG one – I'm not going to take the time to google up accurate spellings, plus of course Sinn Fein has considerable name recognition disproportionate to its historical share of the actual vote), and thus might assume that pattern would carry over to the rest of the political spectrum. I mean, what sort of self-hating neo-colonialist would give his political party the same name as that of a party sitting in the Parliament of the one-time oppressor? (The U.S. itself did that, back when we had a Whig Party, but that's a pretty obscure parallel.)

  9. D.O. said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

    The only thing left unexplained is why Prof. Liberman is against nosediving.

  10. D-AW said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

    It's not clear that it's "nosediving" as opposed to "nose-diving," analysed on analogy to apple-picking (or nose-picking). I would consider supporting diving for noses under some circumstances.

  11. David Morris said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

    And Australians think our Labor (sic) Party is unpopular, with ratings in the 30% range.

  12. Ben Hemmens said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

    “what sort of self-hating neo-colonialist would give his political party the same name as that of a party sitting in the Parliament of the one-time oppressor? “

    I don't think it's any wonder that the other parties made up mythological-sounding gaelicised names for themselves (Sinn Féin, Cummann na nGhaedhal Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil). As basically conservative (at times bordering on clerical-fascist) nationalist parties, they were all competing to be the true heirs of some posited ancient Irish identity.

    In contrast, when the Irish Labour party was founded in 1912, socialist movements all over Europe had fairly genuine aspirations to being internationalist. The British Labour Party represented the radical opposition to all things imperial and capitalist, so it was hardly identified with the oppressor. And finally, Ireland had only a small industrial sector and both its bosses and the proletariat were firmly anglophone. At least three of the Irish labour movement's founding leaders had been born in Great Britain: Connolly, Larkin and Johnson. For all these reasons, Irish Labour probably didn't find having an Irish name to be such an essential part of their identity as the others did.

  13. peter said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

    “what sort of self-hating neo-colonialist would give his political party the same name as that of a party sitting in the Parliament of the one-time oppressor? “

    The Australian Labour Party officially changed its name in 1912 to the Australian Labor Party, as an act of anti-colonial solidarity with the American labor movement. But perhaps anti-colonialism was shared across the political spectrum in Australia a century ago, since they called their parliamentary chambers the House of Representatives and the Senate (not the Houses of Commons and Lords), and imported a young architect from Chicago to design their new capital city.

  14. maidhc said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 4:17 am

    The Irish Labour Party can also be called Páirtí an Lucht Oibre, but that generally happens only in an Irish-speaking context.

  15. Ben Hemmens said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 7:10 am

    Continuing this slightly OT discussion I think it's characteristic that the Irish name just means "the party of the working people", which is a positively sober and pedestrian title compared to the other 3.

  16. mollymooly said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

    @J.W. Brewer:

    The wording in the subhed "on just 7 percent" (rather than, say "at just 7%) seems very bizarre to me and probably ungrammatical, but perhaps that's just an AmEng/IrEng distinction?

    There is an opinion poll every couple of weeks in one or other of the Irish media organs. Reporting the state of the parties in an opinion poll is similar to reporting the state of the teams in a soccer league. Last week Liverpool were on 56 points, Arsenal were on 53, and Chelsea were on 48. This week Fianna Fáil are on 27%, Fine Gael are on 22%, and Labour are on 7%.

  17. Jerry Friedman said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

    mollymooly: "Liverpool were on 56 points" is impossible in American English. We'd say they had 56 points (or present the standings in a table). However, you've cleared something up for me. The only foreign sports coverage I read is about chess. I've occasionally been surprised by "GM Whoever is leading the tournament on 5.5/7", but now I know that's used in some varieties of English—I imagine not just Irish.

  18. Jerry Friedman said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 9:56 pm

    (Some American may be about to say they use "on" like that all the time. If so, please take "impossible" figuratively as meaning how strange it is to me.)

  19. Boris said,

    April 3, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

    Considering how many countries have labour parties, I (as an American) guessed that it was referring to a labour party by default.

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