Stewart on "You didn't build that," Colbert on "Anglo-Saxon heritage"

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The late-night shows on Comedy Central both took a linguistic turn last night. First, on "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart managed to give himself a "grammar wedgie" trying to explain how President Obama's now-infamous line "You didn't build that" has been willfully misconstrued by his critics. Then, on "The Colbert Report," Stephen Colbert crafted an Old English riff off of the recent comment by one of Mitt Romney's advisors that Romney is somehow more appreciative than Obama of the "Anglo-Saxon heritage" shared by the US and the UK.

Here is Jon Stewart's foray into the realm of anaphors and antecedents:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Democalypse 2012 – Do We Look Stupid? Don't Answer That Edition
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

And here is Colbert's foray into Anglo-Saxon rhetoric (perhaps he was helped by his English-major wife?)

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Mitt Romney's Anglo-Saxon Connection
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

(The Old English snippet at the end is, of course, the first line of Beowulf: "Hwæt, we Gar-Dena in geardagum, þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon.")


  1. Michael said,

    July 26, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

    Unfortunately the ability to view the videos is not something shared by the US and the UK.

    [(bgz) There might be ways around that.]

  2. Circe said,

    July 26, 2012 @ 3:06 pm


    Why would you expect the ability to watch videos to be shared anyway. It's not as if videos are part of the Anglo Saxon heritage.

  3. Avinor said,

    July 26, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

    Interesting "special relationship", since those videos from Comedy Central are available in most countries. I watch them regularly from Sweden, Germany, Switzerland… and had no idea that they are blocked in the UK and Canada.

  4. Jon Weinberg said,

    July 26, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

    Comedy Central has had some success in selling rights to program providers outside the U.S. (so that, for example, More4 in the UK rebroadcast the Daily Show for a while). It's plausible that its contracts with (some of) those providers gave them exclusivity, restricting access to the Comedy Central website so that viewers in those countries would have to get the shows from the folks who had paid for the rights. In other words, the more a country has in common with the US, the more likely it is that Comedy Central has been able to sell rights there and has agreed to restrict web access. (And what about the fact that More4 no longer runs the Daily Show? Good question.)

  5. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 26, 2012 @ 9:54 pm is a piece from the Telegraph from a few years ago illustrating the use of "Anglo-Saxon" as a not-exactly-racial pejorative in French political discourse. Assuming the Telegraph's present reporting (where the key quote is put in the mouth of an anonymous source) is accurate, it illustrates a common problem – language, ethnicity, and culture obviously tend to overlap to varying extents in human history yet are distinct things, but in English at least we often do not have lexical items that precisely distinguish between the X language and the X ethnic group, even when the speakers of the first are not coterminous with the latter. If one wished to describe the constellation of shared cultural values and practices having to do with politics and economic policy that (arguably) make the US, UK, Canada and Australia resemble one another more than any of them (arguably) resemble e.g. France or Germany or Italy, what would be the best word to use, if one wants to keep the focus on culture as opposed to ethnicity or even language (except to the extent that language is for historical reasons a marker of culture)? Hip kids on the internet apparently sometimes say "Anglosphere" as a noun, and "Anglospheric" as a derived adjective can be found by some googling, but I wouldn't expect most newspaper readers to understand it. Churchill, who was a big proponent of the (contestable) "special relationship" idea called one of his relevant books "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples," but what's the adjective meaning "of or pertaining to those English-Speaking Peoples Churchill was talking about"?

    But Colbert (whose own surname is said by wikipedia to have gotten into Ireland via the Anglo-Normans) is probably right when he implicitly complains that the common modern use of "Anglo-Saxon" in an ethnic or cultural sense slights the importance of the Normans, who also of course also had a lot to do with how the English language evolved. Perhaps this is the fault of President Obama's predecessor Thomas Jefferson, who was supposedly fond of historically-dubious Whiggish condemnations of the "Norman Yoke."

  6. Mark Mandel said,

    July 26, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

    Congratulations! You have created blog post #x1000! You are entitled to a FREE holiday on Mars!!! Just wire US$1,000.00 (decimal) as a good-faith non-refundable deposit to REMAINDER OF COMMENT REDACTED FOR SECURITY PURPOSES

  7. Yuval said,

    July 27, 2012 @ 11:32 am

    Well, we've known The Daily Show to have an LL-reading linguist writer since the days of Optimality Theory analysis on the show, coupled with the fact that their coverage of Michael Jackson's death featured almost exclusively puns based on "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", which was the main LL interest of that event.

  8. Ginger Yellow said,

    July 27, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

    (And what about the fact that More4 no longer runs the Daily Show? Good question

    Comedy Central Extra (a Sky/Virgin channel) has just started showing The Daily Show over here. Presumably the no UK streaming thing is part of their contracts.

  9. Brenda said,

    July 27, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

    @ J.W. Brewer

    It seems to me that "Anglosphere" could be just as easily used as an adjective, e.g. "Anglosphere attitudes" or "Anglosphere culture".

  10. Rich said,

    July 27, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

    Jutes! The Dark-Age invasion was by Angles, Saxons, and Jutes! When it came to killing, raping, plundering, enslaving, expropriating, and all, surely the Jutes deserve as credit along with the Angles and Saxons for that round of invasions.

    (Ay, and the Romans earlier and, as noted, the Normans later, plus the Danes who bloody well near took over [Go Alfred! You are Great!], and the occasional Viking of other Nordic tribes.)

  11. Andy Averill said,

    July 28, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    @J. W. Brewer, one sees "anglophone" from time to time, but I wonder if that's mainly in Canada. In any event it sounds a bit bureaucratic, and doesn't have the romantic associations of Anglo-Saxon.

  12. Rodger C said,

    July 28, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

    @Rich: Aw, why does everybody forget the Frisians?

  13. Ken Brown said,

    July 28, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

    The trouble with Angles and Saxons and Jutes is that they are overlapping categories. Its like saying Northerners and Geordies and English. Or New Englanders, Yankees, and Americans. Angles originally lived in Jutland so they were Jutes. And Saxon was a general name for all those low-Germans, so the Romans and the British would have called them (and the Frisians) "Saxons" even if they might not have used the word of themselves at the time they came to Britain.

    Really "English-speaking peoples" or "English-speaking countries" does better than "Anglo Saxon", as does "Anglosphere" if you want to sound a bit pompous.

  14. Ed Smithee said,

    July 29, 2012 @ 8:00 am

    Jon Stewart calls scare quotes dick quotes. Really.

  15. Stephen Goranson said,

    July 29, 2012 @ 9:48 am

    The Daily Mail called Mitt Romney "Devoid of Charm, offensive and a wazzock."
    Here, merely, a wild guess, about the etymology, not Romney.
    (There are numerous variant spellings, including with s instead of z, u instead of o, etc..)
    In "Wazzock? I'm baffled, says comic" by Don Frame, March 3, 2007, comic Mike Harding says he used the word as early as 1976, and OED has that: "And I looked round. I was alone… Stood there like a wazzock on the pavement." In the interview he called it "a jagged pebble of a word" that he heard in 1968 or 1969. In the article and in comments there it is claimed: "A rock climb named Wazzok by Dave Gregory at Burbage South, Peak district. BMC guide book Sheffield-Froggatt Area, 1965; later editions have Wazzock." (Stood, pebble, rock–coincidence?)
    There is such a book, but I have no access to it.
    **If** that rock climb (near in space and time) is, somehow, connected to the current sense, why might a rock climb have been given that name?
    Here's the wild guess. There was an African tribe that lived in the mountainous area of northeast Uganda (e.g. Moroto) and the nearby area of Kenya (e.g. Turkwell), and they served as porters, or as dangers, for British mountain climbers. They were called the


    The great rift valley; being the narrative of a journey to mount Kenya and… (London, 1896). Gregory, J. W. (John Walter), 1864-1932.

  16. Rod Johnson said,

    July 29, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

    Tangentially, I thought anaphor was more or less a neologism of Chomsky's in Lectures on Government and Binding, a back-formation from anaphora. I see has it dating back to 1975, though, but still, I didn't think I've ever heard it outside a technical syntactic context. Surprised to hear Jon Stewart using it.

  17. Therese said,

    July 29, 2012 @ 9:01 pm

    Why the surprise, Rod? It's known that many comedy writers are well educated. The Harvard Lampoon was basically a breeding ground for them.

  18. sashi said,

    July 30, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

    Obama just forgot *Allah before *that for appropriate anaphoric coverage, but then he wouldn't want to be quoted out of context.

  19. sashi said,

    July 30, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

    Apollonious Dyscole spoke of anaphora a while back. Charles Bailly too (to whom we owe Saussure's Cours) There is also the rhetorical sense that has been used since the Renaissance, at least in French.

  20. sashi said,

    July 30, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

    Finally, yes, of course, the French feel slighted by the special relationship, why wouldn't you feel slighted when you help a colony free itself from its colonizer, write laudatory reports home (Chateaubriand, de Toqueville), and then some years later are reduced to "laughing yellow" about freedom fries and stinky cheese. Weren't the Normans the original Mr. (income) Taxmen? Maybe that's why nobody likes to remember them, before that with the Angles and the Saxons only land and the power of the mint were taxed.

    So, indeed, I confirm that Anglo-Saxon is used in France as a shortcut to refer to that special relationship (US-UK) between the City and Wall Street through the last 40 years of decolonization of the major producers of raw materials. No-one really speaks of whether Germany is part of this model, though the Netherlands (banking, petrol) certainly are. This is perhaps due to Germany's limited role in decolonization? From the point of view of an adoptive European it refers also to some extent to the schism between Northern and Southern Europe.

    Often, it is a linguistic shortcut for skulduggery on the high seas of finance or supply-side economics.

  21. Troy S. said,

    July 31, 2012 @ 10:22 am

    Does he say "Fare þu hal" at the end, as in "Fare thee well?"

  22. thom dunn said,

    August 3, 2012 @ 9:42 am

    Wish I could find that piece of film in which a British scholar sings the opening lines of Beowulf , in half lines, accompanying himself on a copy of the Sutton-Hoo harp.

  23. Andrew Dalke said,

    August 8, 2012 @ 3:12 am

    Thom, perhaps you're asking about Benjamin Bagby? See for a short clip.

  24. Góðan daginn said,

    September 11, 2012 @ 8:16 am

    Did anyone notice Romney referring to God as "it" in yesterday's "Pledge of Allegiance" riff? Print accounts seem to make the correction for him, but he clearly says "it" in the sentence that begins at :55 in this video:

    "When and if I become president of the United States, I will not take God out of my heart, I will not take God out of the public square, and I will not take *it* out of the platform of my party."

  25. Alexander C. said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 7:30 am

    I object to the notion that the entirety of the UK is of Anlgo-Saxon heritige. Approx 25% of UK does not, England ≠ UK!

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