html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: It would suck a lot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It would suck a lot.

I use lots of folksy Western idioms in my speech; those are almost entirely an affectation, since I grew up in suburban Los Angeles. Still, I tell myself that I am a daughter of the West, and appropriating those is less of a cultural stretch than adopting, for example, the trickled down speech of black urban youth. There is simply no plausible lineage between me and urban black people, and you will never hear me say "you go, girl" or "get my ____ on"1,2. My people could have been Okies or Hoosiers moved to California in the Depression and I could have been a third generation westerner with agricultural roots. They totally weren't; my parents moved here after grad school in the 60's, but the possibility is thread enough that I am not embarrassed to use western colloquialisms. (I am also totally willing to use Spanglish and think of Mexican food as my heritage. I have no Hispanic ancestry, but I grew up in L.A. and on soil that once belonged to Mexico. That's all I need to appropriate the good parts.)

Anyway, I just realized that I didn't understand what I was saying when I said "ride roughshod over". I mean, I know that it meant to bully people and ignore objections to get your way. I figured out that roughshod referred to how the horse was shod. But, like, what? If you're roughshod, does that mean that you don't have very good horseshoes on? Is continuing with your path regardless of horseshoe quality a problem for the horse or a problem for the path? I looked it up.

Roughshod is like snowchains! They leave nails sticking out of the horseshoe, for traction on snow! Oh, and the cavalry3 rode roughshod so when they trampled the infantry, it really counted. Ooooh! Now I get it.

1 There is no plausible lineage between me and black urban peoples, but for a while I had a couple names mixed up. It is family lore that we are related to Hoagy Carmichael from when lots of us lived in Bloomington Indiana. I'm inclined to believe this, because I especially like the song Up a Lazy River. (HEY! I always thought that the song Stormy Weather was by him as well, and I would nod in family pride when they played it on Marketplace behind the stock quotes. I just looked that up and I WAS WRONG! Now I have less to be proud of.) Anyway, I was telling a musician friend of that, but got the name wrong and told him that I was related to Stokely Carmichael, which is not the same thing. I didn't catch the mistake, but he looked very startled, and to his credit, visibly decided that all things were possible. (Also, my father named his cleaver Eldridge and I probably would too, although I have no strong need for a cleaver.)

2 OK. I might say something like that for effect, but you can be sure that if I do, it will be painfully clearly ennunciated and well guarded by air quotes.

3DUDE. I was listening to NPR this one time and they were talking about mastiffs. They said that the Spanish had especially big mastiffs that were trained to pull armored men off their horses and kill them. They brought their mastiffs to the New World to help subdue the Indians. And then! They would go to the slave markets in the morning to buy slaves to feed to their dogs. How much would it fucking suck to know you were being bought to be DOG FOOD?


Blogger bobvis said...

How much would it fucking suck to know you were being bought to be DOG FOOD?

You don't think they really told them, do you? They couldn't possibly do *that*.

6:56 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

I'm sorta skeptical of the slaves-as-dog-food story. It has been pointed out that humans are highly inefficient as a food source.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Jess said...

Did the mastiffs do all their own butchering? Yikes. Such an animal seems somewhat dangerous to have around. I wouldn't feel safe around it even if I weren't chained up.

Peter, the site you reference seems unrelated to the question of whether certain fairly rare dogs could be trained to eat low-status humans.

Is something like this possible? Has it happened multiple times over the history of humanity? Certainly, to both questions. It has probably never been very common in any particular society.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

I don't think about plausible lineage when I speak. I just tend to copy what the people around me say. It's hard not to do.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Francis said...

well, as the dog-with-thumbs for two beautiful rescue dogs, I can say with a perfectly clear conscience that my two canines are willing to slather Michael Vick in duck blood (oh my dogs love duck) and toss him in the pen with the dogs he used to fight.

Buy him? It should be a freebie!

10:27 PM  
Blogger ipsosacto said...

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The Sunday newspaper column is limited to less than 800 words. Blog posts included in the column are often cut to fit. No editing is done other than to add ellipses to indicate deleted passages. The blog's main address will appear in The Bee, and the online copy of the article will contain links to the actual blog post.

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10:55 PM  
Anonymous Thelonious_Nick said...

In my opinion, if you live in America, you are free to appropriate slang, music, food, humor, clothing, other cultural offerings from African-American, Italian, German, Latin, or whatever other tradition you choose.

7:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thelonious_nick: The only caveat being that everyone else is free to think you are an idiot if you do it `wrong'.

peter: I'm sure humans are an inefficient food source, but consider the possibility that the point wasn't food so much as training. Spaniards weren't the only ones to use war dogs in the Americas, if I recall correctly.

While never prevalent, dogs were bred large enough and trained to attack armoured and perhaps mounted men; they must have wreaked havoc on natives completely unprepared for them ...


8:51 AM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

Ummmm ... you're Jewish. How could your people have been Okies or Hoosiers who moved to CA in the Depression? [Or do I have that part wrong?]

8:05 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Dad's side - NY Jews (original owners of Hebrew National. For real.)

Mom's side - nice mid-Western girl

Dubin informs me that technically, I am not one of the Chosen People. Too bad for me.

11:32 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

I did? When did I do that? I mean, it's true and stuff, but only according to the said chosen people. For example, everyone else in the world will be happy to think of you as chosen. But if, say, you married an orthodox NJB, his parents would be freaked unless you officially converted, because otherwise then their grandchildren wouldn't be chosen. Ehem. Why am I talking about this?

But while we're on the topic, were you raised with any traditions and/or hebrew schooling or anything? I wasn't really. If it weren't for camp, I'd be a complete ignoramus about Jewish things. As it is, I know a lot about Judaism - Jews sing songs, play guitars, throw frisbees and kick hackeysacks, make lanyards, pick their afros and paint their faces during color wars.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

When we were roommates, and you were making fun of me and some tall guy you knew. You were saying how nice it is to be Chosen.

3:13 PM  

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