Thursday, May 24, 2007

Is the mc- prefix changing?

On the occasion of McDonalds' recently renewed effort to have mcjob excised from the dictionary (see here) …

The Stephanie Miller Show (nationally syndicated, and on the air here in Madison) has developed a formula or construction that is almost a snowclone. It's a name, of this sort:
X-y Mc-YZ
Each letter is a monosyllabic word. These are coined to mock scandal-ridden Republicans and others. Most common are the lecherous Squeezy McFeelpants and his international pals like Scottish/English Mashie McGrabass/McGrabArse, along with Drunky McPukeshoes, a slam at Tom Delay (who is usually played in sound clips where he slurs words). Former White House "official spokesliar" Scott McClellan was Puffy McMoonface. (Note the little capitalization issue: I'm tempted to start both elements of the last name with caps.) They've talked on the show about these formulas, toying with ideas for how to name particular people.

I noticed a while back that Jon Stewart had used this formula, I think with some original form, though I don't recall what it was. Now, has Bush talking about the death of Jerry Falwell, calling him "beloved McJesus huckster".

Wonkette has been ragging hard on John McCain of late, calling him Walnuts in part as an allusion to the view that he's crazy. This could easily have become X-y McWalnuts, but they've left it to their readers/commenters, who did it with a twist: McBatshit McCrazy.

The established use of productive mc- is clearly pejorative: mcjob is the best known. Go to Urban Dictionary and you'll see that most of the items they list are directly connected to the source form: McDonalds. Many, in fact, are about people with mcjobs or the work itself: mcslave, mctard, mcshift, etc., and most of the rest about bad food and its effects, like mcsquirts. The image above (from here) gives you the picture.

The usage surely still aims at the cheap/sleazy, franchise/commercial aspect of Falwell's ministry, but the Stephanie Miller Show has built it into a bigger construction and made it more political. Is there more evidence out there on this? There must be.

Update, 9:55 am, by Joe: ads-l has a thread starting on this topic probably within an hour of when this post went up. Grey's Anatomy apparently has some thing about "McDreamy" (according to a message from Mark Peters), presumably in a different meaning from the 'sleazy' or specifically 'politically reprehensible' ones.

Grey's goes back to 2005 (maybe Stephanie Miller was doing it earlier? Or got it from there?) and has a string of mc-'s without negative connotations, it sounds like. Best, though, is a note from Alice Faber on ads-l: "Stitchy McYarnpants' blog goes back (at least) to September 2004." Man, don't you need a knitted 6-pack holder?

Update, 1:00 pm: Damn, Language Log covered this topic last year, and I didn't even think to check. Oh well, kind of Sloppy McSlopperson, I guess.


Wolfy said...

lol, stop..too Mcfunny!

Mr. Verb said...

Wait until you read the update ... there's cool stuff out there on this.

polyglot conspiracy said...

Interesting - my friends' version of this snowclone goes X-y Mc-X-erson, as in Sleepy McSleeperson, Douchey McDoucherson (that's ever so contemporary and potentially offensive; my apologies for my candor!), Latey McLaterson, Laughie McLaugherson, etc. I am not sure what this stems from the same source of pejoration (association with McDonald's itself obviously gave rise to McJob, McPerson, McMansion) though - it could instead just be a play on Irish/Scottish names more generally, which I know nothing about and am therefore going to stop talking about them right now. Now.

Also? What the hell does "Beloved McJesus Taliban Huckster" even mean? I can't parse it. Honestly.

Mr. Verb said...

Oh, the X-y Mc-X-erson thing rings a bell. Clearly, a lot of this isn't pejorative and I can't imagine a direct Mickey D connection. In your examples, it sounds like mostly playful stuff, some like you'd talk to kids.

If you read regularly, you know they like to play out at the edges of what we can parse. (Their fake Bush quotes are naturally often imfreakingpossible.) They've used "McJesus Taliban" before, in conjunction with Pat Robertson, combining, I assume, commercialization (Mc-) and intolerance (Taliban) of that particular brand of religion. So, Falwell was a beloved huckster working for the McJesus Taliban. But that's a gnarly noun phrase for any Verb to parse, so maybe my reading is off.

Thanks, PC!

Anonymous said...

If Mc-X is perjorative when X is something one holds in contempt then can one say McMcDonalds? Or does that make it a double negative or an intensive?

jangari said...

Let's not forget Tipsy McStagger, from the Flaming Moe episode of the Simpsons.

Mr. Verb said...

Yeah, the thread on ads-l had some comments about the Simpsons using this kind of construction.

I like McMcDonalds.