Friday, April 27, 2012
A couple of blasts from the past
It’s funny how an image can stick in one’s head. The photo above was taken on January 20, 2009, in Washington, D.C., at the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama. The person in the photo is Rahm Emmanuel, who had served four terms as Congressional Representative from the 5th District of Illinois and was about to become the 23rd White House Chief of Staff, in which capacity he served until October 1, 2010, when he resigned to run for mayor of the great city of Chicago. He won that race and has been serving since May 16, 2011, as Chicago’s 55th mayor. I found all of this in Wikipedia, if anyone cares.
In the minds of many, mine included, Rahm Emmanuel is a rude, profane man. For example, he regularly uses language that would make a sailor blush. On this day he was thumbing his nose at someone in the crowd of onlookers. In Britain this gesture is called "cocking a snook."
According to a website called The Word Detective, to “cock a snook” at someone is a bit more elaborate than simply thumbing one’s nose. To “cock a snook” is a classic display of derision, properly performed by spreading the fingers of one hand, touching the tip of your nose with your thumb while sighting your opponent along the tips of your other fingers (what the British sometimes call a “Queen Anne’s Fan,” but what we more commonly call a “five-finger salute”), and waggling your fingers in the most annoying way possible. As a gesture, it doesn’t really mean anything, but it does convey utter contempt rather well. Like all fine insulting gestures, cocking a snook always goes well with a Bronx Cheer, or raspberry, as an accompaniment. Crossing your eyes while doing all this is optional but definitely enhances the overall effect. And remember, kids, practice makes perfect.
The Word Detective goes on to say that the phrase “thumb one’s nose” first appeared in English around 1903, but “cocking a snook” is much older, first appearing in print back in 1791. The verb “to cock” comes from strutting behavior of male chickens, and means, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, “to turn up in an assertive, pretentious, jaunty, saucy, or defiant way.” The “snook” is of uncertain origin, but may be related to “snout,” which would certainly make sense.
But none of that is important.
What is important is that in the language used by most deaf Americans, American Sign Language (ASL), Rahm Emmanuel seems to be saying either “my father was effeminate” or “my mother was a bit butch.” Either way, his parents seem to have had gender identity issues.
Somewhere, Elizabeth Stanford-Sharpe is laughing.
Here is another image from the same day -- January 20, 2009 -- that clearly says “my milliner is on acid”: