August 22, 2009

Sorry. I don't believe it was *ever* cool/hip to call something/someone "Obama" to mean it/he was cool/hip.

But the NYT nevertheless has this style piece:
LAST week, if you wanted to use the latest slang to tell a friend he was cool, you could have called him “Obama,” as in: “Dude, you’re rocking the new Pre phone? You are so Obama.”

This week? Best not to risk it.
Yeesh. If you risked it before, go ahead: risk it! You seem pretty un-risk-averse. Chez Althouse, we've been thinking it's amusing to say, whenever anything's not quite right: Why did Obama let that happen? Or just — with a tone of sad disappointment: Obama.

But anyway, "Obama" as an adjective for cool/hip? The point is that it didn't last:
The life of slang is now shorter than ever, say linguists, and what was once a reliable code for identifying members of an in-group or subculture is losing some of its magic.

The Internet “is robbing slang of a lot of its sociolinguistic exclusionary power,” said Robert A. Leonard, a linguistics professor at Hofstra in Hempstead, N.Y., whose slang credentials include being a founding member of the doo-wop group Sha Na Na, formed in the late 1960s. “If you are in a real inside group, you are manufacturing slang so that you can exclude the wannabes.”

And that becomes harder, he added, as the whole world has access to your language.
... whose slang credentials include being a founding member of the doo-wop group Sha Na Na... Ha ha. I like to think his linguistics scholarship focuses on the meaning of nonsense syllables in doo wop songs. (Because, really, WHO put the bomp?)

Nowadays, everyone can check Urban Dictionary. The exclusionary game is up.

And what's the #1 entry over at Urban Dictionary for "Obama"? With 7468 up votes and 2099 down:
No real definition for this word is possible at this time. Check back in 4 years by then a consensus by have formed. Each person projects his personal beliefs and values onto this word, and a standard meaning isn't possible at this time.
Hey, did it suddenly become hip and cool to be all clear-headed and rational?!

35 comments:

John Lynch said...

I love it when writers take an anecdote and make it sound like a national trend.

David said...

If you say someone is "Bush" that has a real and derogatory meaning.

To say that somethng (or someone) is "really George" also used to be a big compliment.

When someone "bombs" they have failed big time. O-bomb-a! O-bomb-a!

Peter S. said...

Whoa, Ann, harsh realm!

kcom said...

I saw Robert Leonard on "Forensic Files" or one of the shows similar to it. He was an expert witness involved in a case where someone (I think maybe a woman's husband) faked harrassment notes and he analyzed the writing to figure out who the real author was. Anyway, apparently he knows his stuff. Of course, they also couldn't not mention that he was a former member of Sha Na Na.

Skyler said...

I think that was a very self-absorbed definition of what is or isn't "cool." Nothing lasts only a week, because it takes longer than that to gain acceptance over a large geographical area. I never met anyone using such a term, nor did I see or hear it in the media or even the internet. Seems to me that it was only used by this guy's friends.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Isn't it ridiculous for the NYT to act like it has any idea what is hip or cool? It's a NEWSPAPER for goodness sake.

NKVD said...

I have a friend who is half Kenyan and half white American - I could say that to him, but he would punch me, and he is a large man, so I won't even consider saying it, except in jest. He thinks Obama is from a crummy tribe, anyway...

WV - pardstex - Brokeback Mountain 2 - Texas here they come.

J. R. said...

Being all clear-headed and rational...

Oh my Gods! You know what these really cool people are doing, Ann??? It's this totally new thing and I think it began on 4chan and now it's FTW and you know what it is???

It's called "Agreeing to Disagree".

Really I want to tell you a little about it because it's so totally amazing and it's really the pinnacle of ten thousand years of human history.

Here let me explain a little:

You have an opinion. In the normal way, if I don't like your opinion I will try best I can to demonize you in my writing and tell all about how god-awful you are and how you constantly spurt out "extremist" opinions in a totally "extremist" voice. If that doesn't work, I'll try to get my friends to gang up on you too and maybe get a Senator to call you a "political terrorist" or perhaps organize a boycott of your business because your intentions in putting forth your radical opinions were so awfully evil.

But that's the old way. In the new way, I tell you what I think and what my reasons are. If you are still not convinced, I let it be and we AGREE TO DISAGREE.

That's like so totally hip that I think George Clinton is going to make a song about it. You can be a super-hipster too, Ann. Try it.

Kirby Olson said...

Worst case scenario for "Obama" in 4 years?

I think one fun one would be someone who comes in claiming he's going to change everything but he hasn't thought out the logistics, and ends up getting nothing at all accomplished, and ends up on the street, talking to himself.

PatCA said...

Meanwhile a couple hip dudes are outlining a square behind Mr. Quenqua's back.

J Lee said...

If nothing else, the "Obama-as-slang-for-cool" attempt has given the panelists on "Red Eye" several nights of easy targets to go after.

EDH said...

Coincidently, somebody once told me that Noam Chomsky used to be Bowser from Sha Na Na.

John said...

By 2012 Obama will be slang again only it won't quite mean cool. More like retarded as in "the dude tried to steal a cop care with the cop in it. Man that is so Obama."

AllenS said...

This week, to be cool, you said: "Dude, you're like so totally wee wee."

WV: login

I'm not kidding.

AllenS said...

you say, not you said

Ugh.

WV: sulphang

Isn't that what they put in the car engines to ruin them?

Paul Zrimsek said...

"Obama" as an adjective for vague/unintelligible, on the other hand, has definite potential. "I thought that MRI video of the couple having sex would be hot, but it was just too Obama."

BJM said...

Obama played a cool dude on the campaign trail but is in reality Urkle.

Cool dudes do not wear mom jeans, or use expressions such as "wee-weed up".

Bill Clinton is still the coolest black president.

LonewackoDotCom said...

1. It might be funny to see if those who adopted "Hussein" as a name are still using it.

2. It would be very helpful if someone could compile the most obsequious statements made about BHO by Beltway hacks, and then come up with a Top 100 list. That could be held against them in the coming months and years.

3. On an unrelated note, could Althouse suggest to Insty that he put away childish things?

Leland said...

President Smurf

Brian O'Connell said...

That NYT article is so gay. And you're all hillbillies.

Caught the Red Eye treatment of "that's so Obama!" It goes without saying that it was pretty Althouse.

Big Mike said...

Professor, there's a reason why you "don't believe it was *ever* cool/hip to call something/someone "Obama" to mean it/he was cool/hip."

You don't believe it because it never was.

BTW, overusing slash marks is never cool nor hip.

ricpic said...

An Obama is when an ice cold counterfeit human being does you dirt while faking concern for your wellbeing...unconvincingly.

Seven Machos said...

Actually, there's a lot of umplummed depth here. Obama was a phenomenon for a certain segment of the population in the same way that New Kids on the Block were, or that break dancing was. For a fleeting period, he was all the rage. The fact that this is politics makes it that much harder for advocates to move along, but the psychology is the same.

John said...

OK, so here are claims from earlier this year that it was "cool/hip" to call someone Obama (well, Barrack). I also heard NPR interview 1 guy at this Albany high school where this was going on:

...And speaking of basketball, who missed the sight of POTUS dressed in all black, sitting courtside at a Bulls-Wizards game with a cup of beer and high-fiving a trash-talking fan? How hip was that?!

It’s so hip that school kids in Albany, N.Y., coined a term for it: “Baracking.” And it doesn’t stop there. Those in the know at Albany High greet each other by saying: “What’s up, my Obama?” and they respond to a sneeze with “Barack you.” Misbehavior is peer-corrected with the admonition, “Barack’s in the White House,” which translates, “Show some respect.”


More in this hard-to-take vein here: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0409/21522.html#ixzz0OxOkU0bb


http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0409/21522.html

Mark said...

I was walking down the street today (in Marin County) and saw an aging hipster, age 60 or so, wearing leather pants and a red che tshirt. Now I know what I should have said to him. "dude. Now that is Obama. DUDE!".

Marcia said...

Maybe the writer heard wrong when people were telling their friends, "You're the bomb."

Old Dad said...

Dear Mr. President:

I'm an old fat white guy, and even I can tell that your Obama is fake. I know the old lady has a serious power and money jones, but you don't. You just want to be liked. You can't do this job. You know that. You'll go down in flames on Health Care and Cap 'n Tax, and that a good thing. Your nest is feathered. Michelle will get over it. Go home Mr. President. I know you want to. Eat your waffles in peace. Sure Billy Ayres is a terrorist, but he might be entertaining, and you can choose a church that doesn't show you up as a racist idiot.

Hyde Park 2012 Mr. President. Smoke'em if you got'em.

Shawn Levasseur said...

"Lets see if we can make up a phony trend, and get someone to write about it"

"If we can pull that off, it'd be so Airwolf!

jayne_cobb said...

J Lee,

Don't be such a Biden.

Michael Hasenstab said...

This blog is, like, totally Althouse. Waay cooler than being, like, totally Obama. Hipper and smarter. Being Obama is sooo totally last Thurssday.

m.a. said...

In our house we tired of acronyms but wanted something less crass than the full words for BS. So we now just say, "That's total Pelosi!" or "Have you ever heard such Pelosi?" Our kids use it during times of parental overreach, and we all use the term whenever Robert Gibbs is working.

Kirby Olson said...

Obama = pie in the sky.

kentuckyliz said...

Dude, why are you calling my Pre phone socialist?!

kentuckyliz said...

We got a new federal contract, so Rufus Lincoln got Obama'd to Vice President of Operations. Gotta meet the stats to get the cash, ya know.

WV pollyn
an irritant allergen, a.k.a. Obama

edwardroyce said...

Dudes!

This is soooo Tom Delay!

Let's do a Gingrich and Palin the heck out of here....

Did that writer actually think people wouldn't see the vast empty lameness of this nonsense?