"William Jefferson Clinton, you just wait till your father comes
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 7 Jan 99 13:29:43 -0800
Subject: "William Jefferson Clinton, you just wait till your father comes
[This message came in a thread discussing which grammar/usgae books are good
and which are just useful for miserly newspapers trying to get rich by cheap
tricks like saving ink by omitting commas (of course that's just my take on
Forwarded-by: Avram Grumer
At 1:53 PM -0500 1/6/99, Vicki Rosenzweig wrote:
> Fowler, if only because of age, omits a number of things
> you'll want to know--it's not the place to go if you're
> wondering how to style "email" or what all those "-gate"
> compounds are about. (Safire trying to make Nixon's crimes
> look less serious, if you must know.)
Is Safire the one who started the trend of using "-gate" as a scandal-
indicating suffix? I've been hearing it from lots of sources. A big
Congressional page sex scandal of a decade or two back was called "Tailgate"
by the DJs on the radio station I listened to at the time. And David
Letterman this past year used the term
But speaking of William Safire, I was talking with some friends earlier
today about Safire's habit of referring to the current US president by his
full name, "William Jefferson Clinton," as he's been doing for a few years.
One of my friends thinks this is part of a subtle verbal villification
technique, and notes that assassins are generally referred to be their full
names -- "John Wilkes Booth" and "Lee Harvey Oswald" -- even if they didn't
go by those names in everyday life.
This tied into something I'd noticed years before -- that you can tell how
much trouble you're in as a child by how much of your full name your parents
use when they call you. A short nickname ("Bob! Could you come here for
a minute?") means they probably aren't mad. First and last name means they
are mad, and the full name ("Robert Foster Thistleworth the Third, you get
right down here this instant!") spells mucho big trouble.
I'd also noted that Catholic families tend to give their kids lots of names
("Mary-Margaret Josephine O'Callahan"), and I used to think this meant that
Catholics were expected to get into a lot of trouble. Now I wonder if it
just means that Catholics recognize more gradations of trouble. Maybe two
names is a venal sin, while four indicates a mortal sin.
© 1999 Peter Langston