Trump's nickname for me

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…is "Tardy Mark", at least according to one roll of the dice by The Daily Show's Trump Nickname Generator:

Trying it a few more times, I get "Deadbeat Mark", "Bad at Improv Mark", "Got Lost at Sea Mark", …

But in fact there's a story behind "Tardy Mark".

When I was in the first grade, I used to walk to and from school every day. By road, it was about a mile, but if I cut across a cow pasture, through a patch of woods, and up a hill, it was only about half that. At the edge of the cow pasture was an endlessly fascinating brook, where I liked to build dams, catch frogs and crawfish, and so forth. And school was kind of boring. So I was often a bit late.

One day in late September, I was summoned to see the principal, Mr. Ardel. He was eight feet tall and had eyes of flame.

"Mark," he said, "you've been tardy three times this week, and seven times so far this month. This is serious, do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," I said.

"This habitual tardiness must end now. Tell me that you will not be tardy again!"

"Yes, sir".

"Say it!"

"I will not be tardy again."

"Good. Now do you have any questions?"

"Yes, sir. What does 'tardy' mean?"

For some reason, this annoyed him, and another meeting was scheduled that involved my parents as well.




  1. Irina said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 1:49 pm

    I got "Bad at Smalltalk Irina" on the first try. Spot on.

  2. Guy said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 2:08 pm

    I got "Posts Baby Pictures on Facebook Guy". I don't even have a Facebook account.

  3. David L said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 2:13 pm

    Does anyone know how it is that the (to me) somewhat obscure word 'tardy' became such a staple of American school language? In England, we were just late. And my impression is that in American English, tardy is not much used except in connection to schools. Does anyone ever say 'don't be tardy for dinner'?

  4. Charles Antaki said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

    I put in Leibniz and immediately got back "Idiot Leibniz".

    Endless fun.

    Is this all going to provoke that fellow who defends Trump's honour to complain again though?

  5. Guy said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 2:31 pm

    @David L

    "Tardy" carries connotations of blameworthiness in missing obligations and also of formality. For example, anything that misses a formal deadline (like a court filing or work deadline) could be called "tardy". Being late for work would also usually be called "tardiness". Being "tardy" for dinner probably wouldn't be the main choice, since it would suggest an asymmetric power dynamic between the host and guests. It does seem much less "term of art"-like to me than "truant", for example.

  6. Guy said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 2:36 pm

    But if I had to guess, based on no evidence at all, I would guess that "tardy" in this sense originated in legalese, since "tardy" is the most common word for filings that miss deadlines at least in American courts. I would guess that it at least used to be common in English courts, probably originating from when many legal terms were from French, owing to the fact that English courts used to operate in Norman French.

  7. Jonathon Owen said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 2:55 pm

    I got No Living Grandparents Jonathon. It's hurtful because it's true. :(

  8. Laura Morland said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 3:09 pm

    "Tardy" apparently entered the language in the mid-16th century, as has been surmised. However, it is more casually used in everyday language than one might surmise, judging by these current examples from the OED:

    Thanks for the email and sorry about tardy reply, just out of five weeks in Afghanistan where I'd no access to this email address.

    On one trip in Africa, a tardy photographer was left behind and had to catch us up in the next country.

    But he was very tardy and unorganized, throwing off my schedule considerably…

    The ambassador's only doubt was whether ‘such tardy recognition’ of Chaplin's undisputed and long-held talents would be desirable at this time.

    This woman, dressed in a headscarf, long peasant dress and sweater, stands with her arms folded in front of her as if she is slightly cold or perhaps waiting for a tardy child.

    We arrive too late to know if Feargal and the gang performed an ironic Here Comes The Summer, but thankfully we're not too tardy for Teenage Kicks – it's so hard to beat.

    So I beg your forgiveness for being tardy with mail.

    I've been tardy in finishing the New York photo scans… be patient with me… they will come sooner or later.

    My first meeting was drawing to a close, the participants slinking out to Starbucks – a plan ruined by my tardy arrival, which meant they were doomed to repeat the salient points.

    She broke up with me via a tardy phone call and letter for my birthday in May 2004 (a month late) and I haven't spoken to her since.

    This is despite the introduction of late payment legislation three years ago that, in theory, allows a supplier to hit tardy payers with interest penalties.

    It is a dire coach company in the UK, to be avoided at all costs for their provision of uncomfortable seats and tardy services.

    Not surprisingly, the notoriously tardy musician is late.

    Strains of Sinatra's signature tune would have completed the snapshot of Britain's tardy and
    most controversial swimmer.

    Next week I'll be less tardy and hopefully will get a spot.

    It can use fuelling trucks but the trucks delay flights because of tardy, lazy drivers.

  9. cameron said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 3:27 pm

    It took a few tries before it generated on that was even remotely apt: Never Got Into Radiohead Cameron.

    It's true, I can barely even tell Radioplay and Coldhead apart.

  10. D.O. said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 4:02 pm

    What? Nobody tried Donald? Lemme see…. wow on the first try Unfulfilled Donald. Now the Donald….Fruity The Donald. And why should we insult people by the first name only (well, Leibnitz was a welcome exception)? How 'bout Trump…Watches Professional Lacrosse Trump. I rest my case.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 4:34 pm

    I also got "Tardy" on the first try, and I have exactly the same kind of story as Mark does about dawdling on the way to school. The difference is that, after three times being tardy to school, the principal, Edward Schaffer, would call me in to his office, tell me to bend over and grab my ankles, then give me three hard whacks on the bottom with his thick wooden paddle. It had holes drilled in it, so that the powerful paddling would raise welts that made it painful for me to sit down on.

    At least the nickname generator didn't call us "tawdry".

  12. Rebecca said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 4:46 pm

    I got "Bad at Identifying Birds Rebecca".

    This is quite true. If it doesn't say what kind right on the package, I have no clue.

  13. Viseguy said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 7:49 pm

    After a couple of tries ("Bad Taste in Movies", "Loopy"), I settled on "No Living Grandparents" Viseguy — which has been true all of my life. (My paternal grandfather was born in 1845.) It never occurred to me to wear this fact as a stigma, but I'll try it on for size, in case Bernie decides to run as a third-party candidate.

  14. Gregory Kusnick said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 7:51 pm

    As far as I can tell, this in not in any meaningful sense your Trump nickname; it's just a randomly chosen insult with your name appended.

    I'd be a lot more impressed if the input text were actually used as an input to the choice algorithm, so that the nickname generated was indeed uniquely yours in some sense.

    But maybe I'm overthinking it.

  15. Rebecca said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 8:05 pm

    @Gregory Kusnick – not only is it not your Trump nickname, I don't think it's even your Trump nickname, is it? At least the Scalia insult generator uses real Scalia insults.

  16. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 9:14 pm

    "Not too tardy for Teenage Kicks" is rather a lovely bit of found poetry. And I'm impressed to find that the OED's source for the cite is apparently a long-defunct blog (in here: I don't think "tardy" in that specific context would be idiomatic in my own idiolect unless I was being mildly jocular. But perhaps the author was in fact being mildly jocular or perhaps there's a relevant trans-Atlantic (or other) difference in our idiolects.

  17. Mike Maltz said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 10:31 pm

    You guys are all wrong! Leo Rosten, in "The Joys of Yiddish," had him pegged in 1968, in his definition of "trombinik" (which I of course pronounce "trumpinik"):

    "From the Polish, and/or Yiddish: tromba: "a trumpet," "a brass horn."

    1. A blowhard, a braggart, a blower of his own horn. "That trombenik can drive you crazy."
    2. A glutton.
    3. A lazy man or woman; a ne'er-do-well.
    4. A parasite.
    5. A fake, a phony, a fourflusher.

    "Any way you look at it, trombenik is not a word of praise. A trombinik is part of the raucous gallery of nudniks, shleppers, and ,\paskudnyaks.
    "I," boasted the trombinik, "have been to Europe three times in the past two years."

    "So? I come from there."

  18. Weltanschauung said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 10:32 pm

    Your walk to school leaves me wistful. A shortcut through pasture? Dawdling beside a brook? I console myself with the thought that no doubt your Internet connectivity was severely lacking.

  19. John Chambers said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 10:34 pm

    It told me I'm Poorly Hydrated John. Guess I'll have to go get a beer …

  20. Keith said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 1:55 am

    I am apparently "Poor Vision Keith"; not sure if that refers to my visual acuity or my inability to predict the future.

    Drilling holes in the paddle was almost certainly to reduce drag, increasing the speed of each blow when the principal "whacked your fanny" (to use the American vernacular). That these holes raised welts in a particular pattern would be a fortuitous, unplanned side-effect.

  21. ardj said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 3:49 am

    a) @Laura Morland mid-16C:
    I do not know the denotative range of the Latin tardus, but the OED (2nd ed. CD-rom) gives the English as coming from French tardif, which in old senses meant slow to act but also long in coming (e.g. poetical); and the first English attestation is Caxton 1483.(Golden Legend).

    b) @Guy: legal origin
    This citation is curious, as it appears under the English sense 1a, of “slow” in various senses, “in action or occurrence, making little progress in a … long time … sluggish”, not under 1b of “… late …”. But the example reads (after a discussion of how the period of forty days between resurrection and ascension was the right length:, because it needed more time to demonstrate the resurrection than the three days of the passion):

    “We ought to giue thankynges to the dyuine dyspensacioun, for the tardyve creaunce of holy faders to us necessarye”.which continues (modernized spelling) “for they doubted of that which we doubt not”.

    Burt tardy here seems to me to have the sense of belated at least as much as slow (cf. Thomas, for instance). Equally the example from the Comedy of Errors (2.1.44) given under this same first sense is Adriana’s “Say, is your tardie master now at hand” – and she is quite clearly describing someone who is late, not just slow, since lunch has been waiting some time for him. So I don’t think it necessarily starts out as a legal term.

  22. January First-of-May said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 10:32 am

    I got "Annoying At Snapchat [first name]".
    I mean, seriously, what the triangular heck is a Snapchat?

  23. Emily said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 12:23 pm

    I'm "Replies All By Accident Emily." Which is funny because I often forget to use the "reply all" option when exchanging e-mails with a group.

  24. pj said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 12:38 pm

    I'm 'Can't Read Roman Numberals [Firstname]'.

    I don't know if the misspelling is deliberate, but it made me laugh out loud anyway.

    (I can read Roman numerals just fine, mostly, though I tend to forget exactly what the less common 'big-number' conventions are.)

    First true one I struck (if we ignore 'Poopy', because I like to think I'm no poopier than average, at any rate) was "In An A Capella Group."

  25. Your readers said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 12:39 pm

    That's it. I'm fed up with your continous political propaganda. I won't be reading this blog anymore.

    [(myl) Farewell — and on your way out, you may wish to take advantage of the famous Language Log guarantee: your subscription fees are cheerfully refunded in case of less than total satisfaction.]

  26. Thorin said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 3:10 pm

    "Thinks Fruit is a Dessert Thorin", and I was eating an apricot when it came up.

  27. Charles Antaki said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

    It seems that the Trump angry person did indeed get offended.
    As I remember the phrase goes from reading Archie comics in the last century, who'da thunk it?

  28. Bloix said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 9:19 pm

    "since "tardy" is the most common word for filings that miss deadlines"

    IAAL and in 30 years I've never used, and don't recall ever having read, the word "tardy" applied to a late filing. The usual word is "untimely."

    – I just did a westlaw search (limiting myself to the federal 2nd circuit). I got 1126 hits for "tardy," and most of them seem to be claims of unlawful discharge which the employer justified by saying that the worker was frequently "tardy." For "untimely," the search maxed out at 10,000 – it won't retrieve more cases than that.

  29. Bloix said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 9:24 pm

    PS- a filing that is on time is of course "timely." So lawyers talk about doing things "timely" or "untimely" ("Appellant timely filed her notice of appeal" is perfectly good legalese.)

  30. mollymooly said,

    May 18, 2016 @ 7:27 am

    Looking through Laura Morland's list of cites for "tardy", I find a possible substitute is "late" in some and "slow" in others, while in still others neither works. That doesn't mean those cases are irreplaceable or unrecastable, but does suggest "tardy" fills a semantic niche. Still, not a big enough niche to persuade me to add the word to my active vocabulary.

  31. richardelguru said,

    May 18, 2016 @ 9:49 am

    I got "Doesn't Wash Hands Richard" and I'd like to shake his hand for coming up with that one.

  32. RachelP said,

    May 18, 2016 @ 10:36 am

    I got 'idiotlicious Rachel', which is confusing.I could understand just 'idiot' but that is half a complement, isn't it?

  33. richardelguru said,

    May 18, 2016 @ 10:50 am

    An oxymoronic portmanteau?
    Deliciously idiotic?
    Found delicious by idiots?

  34. Graeme said,

    May 19, 2016 @ 7:47 am

    Lovely anecdote Mark. In year 2, a teacher upbraided my handwriting as 'appalling'. 'You know what that means?', she asked, a little triumphantly.

    'Err, pretty bad.' I guessed from her tone and the situation.

    She then praised me to her co-teacher as if I were a walking dictionary.
    Later I looked up the word and lost what little respect I'd had left for her.
    But I forgive you know, the aptly named 'Miss Hassle'.

  35. Graeme said,

    May 19, 2016 @ 7:50 am

    ps 'now' not 'know'. You appalling spell checker.

    I'd have thought a Trump insult has to be short and bi-syllabic

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