Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Playing with political names: The Encyclopedia Baracktannica

I like Slate's "Low Concept" pieces, maybe because this blog aimed from the beginning to embody 'low concept', though I wasn't clever enough to think of it that way. So, since February, I've been following their "dictionary of Obamaisms", which runs under that rubric. Here's their little (well, not so little) widget:

This has proven a very successful deal for Slate — They've now got a book out of this stuff. I haven't posted about it until now because I never could quite figure out what to make of it, but maybe this is something to throw out there without much elaboration.* Consider these points:
  • We've talked here often about playing with political names, mostly recently the many plays on McCain here. But a whole book!?!?!?
  • Bushisms are a big deal, but Obamaisms are a different creature altogether: The former are blunders by the person, the latter play on the person's name.
  • I started out thinking that these were all positive, thus maybe feeding the view that the media are easy on Obama. But that's really changed. Even aside from the (mostly mythical?) Nobama Mamas (dedicated Hillary supporters bent on not supporting Obama — a search in the NYT for 'Nobama' in the last seven days yields nine matches), consider yesterday's entry in the dictionary:
    Barocrates (buh-ROK-ruh-teez) n. An obscure Greek philosopher who pioneered a method of teaching in which sensitive topics are first posed as questions and then evaded.
    Ouch. Just reading through a few, the current stack seems very mixed; no clue what the overall numbers look like.
  • Finally, they've built this book, it sounds like, out of stuff people have sent in. Think about that in terms of how media and publishing have changed.

*Much like Onion headlines, which I gather are basically story ideas that don't ever get developed.

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