Political satire by_larry_paros
Political Satire by Larry Paros. Humor, Words Origin. How we talk about life and politics
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Political satire by_larry_paros
Social and Political
By Larry Paros
Fish Your Wish
What’s with the fish? Since 1750, he’s been “a peculiar person”— and everything from queer to
odd or cold. Fish stories are considered tall tales, from the fisherman’s tendency to exaggerate
the size of his catch, making things fishy, “suspect “or “questionable.”
Worse yet is his personal life. Around 1737, fishy also became synonymous with being drunk,
leaving us green, about or around the gills (17thC.), a reference to the skin beneath the jaw
and ears and the complexion resulting from excessive drinking. This left us putting away
prodigious amounts of liquor — drinking like a fish, a habit we picked up around 1640.
If the truth be known, fish don’t drink, obtaining their water instead from their food. But they
do swim with their mouth open, allowing water to pass through their gills supplying them with
oxygen, creating the appearance of drinking continuously.
What exactly is it we’re doing here? We’re simply on a fishing expeditions (c.1930) —what
else?—“attempting to obtain useful information by asking questions without a definite purpose
in mind.” Those who would attribute some higher purpose to this column can be said to have
swallowed it hook, line, and sinker (c.1838).
Not So Sure Footed?
A tale to make one tremble:
“Please walk along this line,” the state trooper firmly requests.
You’d like to make tracks. But you’re delirious, from the Latin de, “away from” and lira, a
“ridge” or “furrow,” making for delirare — causing you “to go out of the furrow in plowing” or
“plow a crooked line.”
When the Romans applied the word figuratively, it meant “to wander mentally,” or “to rave.”
This left you delirious and also gave you the d.t.s, more formally known as the delirium
tremens, the shakes and hallucinations accompanying a severe alcoholic episode.
“Exactly how much have you had to drink?, sir?” he asks.
Could you have been driving while intoxicated?
Toxon is Greek for “bow” as in a bow and arrow. Toxicon, was the poison in which the arrow
was dipped. Though this toxin made you toxic, it also provided you with an antitoxin (anti,
“against”). Alas, there’s no antitoxin here.
“Nothing against you personally, sir, but when intoxicated, you have simply been laid low by
the lethal effects of too much liquor.”
The bottom line for those who drink?
Name your poison!
The Long and Short of It
The holiday season may be over, but
‘tis always the season to be giving.
The giving, however, has a way of
getting pretty ugly. It began amidst
the holiday tumult with people
giving each other short shrift
(c.1879)—”treating them in a
brusque manner” and “paying them
Shrift originally referred to a
confession to a priest who granted
absolution. Short shrift was the
brief period prior to an execution
during which a prisoner received
Lovers give one another short shrift
by giving them the air (c1949), i.e.,
blowing them off. Employees do so
by giving their employers the bag (c.1825), “insufficient notice”—leaving them holding the bag.
Employers, in turn, give workers the sack (1825)–the bag in which they carried their tools which
was handed back to them when they were fired.
We end up rejecting one another by giving them the gate (1901). We once used to grant
someone the gate (c.1470), “to give leave to go. “
Amazing how the grace and magnanimity of the original phrase has given way to the bitterness
and disaffection of the current version.
This leaves us giving people the brush-off and the old heave-ho. All at a time when we should
be giving pause (17thC.)…and thanks.
See Barack Run
Poor Barack Obama has had to run the gauntlet of criticism from all sides. It’s a corruption of
gantlope, from the Swedish gatlopp, a “running lane”— a military punishment introduced
during the Thirty Years War (1610-48) in which an offender was forced to run naked between
two rows of soldiers armed with scourges, switches, and swords, each of whom struck him a
While the President is running the gauntlet, it’s the Republicans who are throwing down the
gauntlet, “a mailed glove.” That’s how knights issued a challenge during Medieval times — one
which was accepted when the challenged knight literally took it up.
In this instance, however, it’s only Obama’s woes which have picked up — continuing to run the
gamut, “extending over the full range of possibilities.” Gamut derives from the medieval
musical scale of Guido d’Arezzo, gamma being the first or lowest note + ut (which later became
do), which was the highest.
As to how to characterize the quality of the performance of the key figures in this comedic
contest—from the President to the Democratic and Republican members of Congress—one can
only paraphrase Dorothy Parker, as to how it “runs the gamut from A to B.”
Everywhere we turn we find merchants hawking
their “stuff,” politicians pushing their agendas,
and the Media exploiting one and all. There’s
always someone trying to pull the wool over
Though the American public has been often
been confused with a flock of hyperthyroid
sheep, the wool in this expression is of a
different sort — a slang term for “hair” —
synonymous with the powdered wigs worn by
gentlemen several centuries ago. The most
powerful ones with the most elaborate
hairstyles, of course, constituting our first
It was once no simple task for a bigwig to take an innocent stroll down a city street, with young
hooligans lurking around every corner. As a malicious act, a joke, or for purpose of thievery,
they’d often pull the wig (the wool) down over said gentleman’s eyes, enabling them to make
off with his purse in the process.
This was similar to hoodwinking a person. To do so was to literally cover his eyes with a hood
or other material to obscure his vision. Figuratively, it came to mean blindfolding someone
mentally in order to prevent him from seeing the truth.
Another cover-up in the news? Details at eleven.
Potty Talk for Donald and His
A brief history of the schlong and the bathroom as
they relate to Donald Trump and his most recent
Trump recently made linguistic history, first, mocking
Hillary for a “disgusting” bathroom trip she made
during Saturday night’s debate, and describing
Barack Obama as having “schlonged” her in the 2008
primaries: “She was favored to win and she got
schlonged,” he said.
Part deux was about Hillary’s sojourn in the
bathroom. Remarking on Clinton’s late return to the
podium after her visit there during a commercial
break at this weekend’s Democratic debate, Trump
said, “I know where she went. It’s disgusting. I don’t
want to talk about it. It’s disgusting.”
First, as to having been “schlanged,” Mr. Trump, alas,
knows not of what he speaks. He is clearly unfamiliar
with bawdy language, especially those words based
As a public service, we offer a crash course on the
There are many good ways of describing Trump in Yiddish. The best would be as a “schmuck” or
a”putz.” Trump, however, had to take things a step further with the schlang. The Donald, after
all, does fancy things which are big, and you can’t go much larger than the Yiddish schlang (also
schlange and schlong) from the German schlange for “snake.”
In Portnoy’s Complaint (1967), the title character reminisced about his father’s: “His schlang
brings to mind the firehoses along the corridors at school. Schlang: the word somehow captures
exactly the brutishness, the meatiness that I admire so, the sheer mindless, weighty and
unselfconscious dangle of that living piece of hose through which he passes water as thick and
strong as rope…” Now who does that bring to mind, hmmm?
The Donald, however, made linguistic history in the process, going where none have gone
before. We have no recorded usage of the schlang as a verb before his utterances. When asked
afterwards, what he meant by schlanged,” he said that what he meant was that she “had been
A more definitive reading of the word, however, would be that she got f**ked over by Barrack
Obama. That is, after all, the life purpose of the schhlang.
As to his description of Clinton’s going to the bathroom as “disgusting,” Donald was apparently
unaware that it’s a somewhat universal function. More importantly, it’s also quite the
presidential thing to do. President John Quincy Adams laid the foundations of American foreign
policy. He also installed the first toilet into the White House, making Quincy (early19thC) a
First names for the toilet have also flourished over the centuries, including Jakes and Johns. H.L.
Mencken pointed out how Johnnie was the vogue for college girls back in the twenties, with
George and Fred having their moments as well.
Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, however, was not about to take any such s**t. When the
manufacturer of portable toilets came out with the new “Here’s Johnny” line, Carson
responded by suing for 1.1 million dollars in damages, claiming use of the phrase by the toilet
company constituted a trademark infringement, unfair competition, and a violation of Carson’s
rights of publicity and privacy. In a landmark decision, the Court ruled in favor of the
manufacturer–leaving Johnny open to a lifetime of public abuse. When reporters sought out his
reaction, Carson allegedly responded, “Its never fun being dumped on.”
Given the history of the nomenclature of the bathroom, and Trump’s description of its use as
“disgusting,” it seems only appropriate to offer “Donald” up as a new name to replace the John
thus lending it the requisite dignity.
Let’s take things even a step further, extending it to the process itself. A favorite activity of
Kinky Friedman, Western singer and mystery writer extraordinaire, was to “take a Nixon.” This
opens the door to myriad possibilities such as having to ”Dump your Enron stock” Or “Evacuate
Better yet, next time you have such a need, just “Play your trump card. “Consider it your
patriotic doody to do so.
Skeptics should simply relieve themselves of their doubts. Void where prohibited by law.
Larry Paros is a writer, teacher, lecturer and professional ne'er-do-well. His published works
range from education and etymology to children's books. Included among them are: The Great
American Cliché, A Word with You America, The Erotic Tongue, Bawdy Language, and
He has also been an op-ed page columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a commentator
on KUOW-FM, the NPR affiliate in Seattle. As a filmmaker he produced and directed The
Journey, the story of an immigrant's trek to America and Walk Right In, the story of the other