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I Went Up Into Texas

from Sunday, July20th of the year2008.

In my adult life, I have now been to Texas twice. The first was a last-minute impulse ticket purchase to visit my friend C””’s parents in Houston, see her play with the Houston Ballet, and go to the Art Car Parade. belt4402_bb_texasstate.jpgThis time, it was a really last-minute impulse ticket purchase as an excuse to sit in an air conditioned room and write a piece for these twins. B”” was down here attending this conference, which was predictably intense. Like a New Music concert, there were a lot of people with walking problems at this event. There were also a lot of Mutterers to Selves, Sighers To Selves While Blogging, etc.

Something I wish I had time to deal with: making leftie people stop using the word “folks” and the phrase “ordinary folks.” Just fuckin’ stop saying it. It’s horrifying, blood curdling, smarmý, and disingenuous. 431px-volkssturm_poster.JPGCheck out this from “And in fact, Political Action is mostly funded by people who give less than $100 ““ folks who don’t have a lot of money but want to see a change.” Stoppit. Every single event at this conference had descriptions like, “Mother Jones Readers Caucus: Connect with like-minded folks and talk with others from your community in our identity, issue and regional caucuses.” Is it just me who sees that word and thinks immediately of the Volkssturm? In any event, what it’s meant to do is remove the possible taint of elitism from left-wing politics, which is fundamentally a good goal, but I wish it didn’t have to happen like a Chinese water torture to words and their meanings.

[An aside: in running around Wikipedia this morning, I discovered this totally fascinating entry that I had been wondering about since I was a kid: It has survived in the English word Dutch, the German words deutsch and Deutschland, the Dutch words Diets and Duits, the Yiddish word taytsh, the Danish word tysk, the Swedish word tyska, the Icelandic word þjóð “people, nation” and the modern Italian word tedesco “German”. I also found this kind of amazingly edited Wikipedia page on the region “Chhachh” in Punjab. I was actually looking for a recipe for Chhach, which is like buttermilk, but then I typed in an extra h. Scroll down. Also this.]

In my awkward attempts to make friends with these bloggers, I mentioned casually to one of them (who seemed to have a fancy job for a Big Girl newspaper) that I really liked Stanley Fish’s blog at the Times. He was like, “Who’s that.” Now, am I crazy? Do I only know him because he’s from Rhode Island, and Rhode Island is famous for Him? (If anybody dares brave it, Mandy Patinkin has recorded a really scary version of that song with a really out of control arrangement featuring a very out-of-place violin ricochet on the lyric, “Cotton comes from Louisiana.”) Okay but back to Stanley Fish. Don’t you gotta know who he is? I would recommend that everybody either buy or Google Fondle his essay “Speaking in Code” because it seems to me like he figured out a whole bunch of really useful things in 1994. Gonna talk to me about who’s stanley fish. (Muttering to self)


  • Amen on the abolition of the usage of “regular folks” from all sides of the political spectrum since it sounds phony coming from both left and right wings of the political spectrum. You’re also correct that MoveOn is a particularly egregious offender, since most of us “folks” didn’t cash out on a software company with millions of bucks, and it’s fairly insulting to be lectured to by those who have. Plus, they siphon a substantial amount of energy and money from “folks” for some pretty stupid public relations to influence other “ordinary folk.” Thanks for sharing the pet peeve.

  • The *one* thing that I like about the term “folks” is that it can be used as a non-gendered replacement for “guys.” So, “how are you guys doing?” can be replaced with “how are you folks doing?”

    but the faux-populism problem you point out is spot on.

  • I swear, “folks” should be punishable, especially in politics. But, here in Texas, its a daily occurrence. Theres even some truth in the stereotypes of Texas, I heard a man at a gas station once say “sharper than a mashed potato.” talking about his wife. Surreal.

  • Many of my Southern in-laws say “Folks” and it is understood to come with honest affection that exists within communities, so … maybe it’s only we elitists who mind it. Different strokes for different–oh, sorry, sorry.

  • Folks is our lefty way of pretending we care about “regular people” or have ever met one.

  • I am from the South and use the word folks many times daily. To take any issue with the word in its normal context, or to compare it to its German version, which has virtually nothing to do with its Southern American rendition, is absurd.

    Moveon’s usage is, however, slightly offensive, but from the perspective of someone who considers himself one of these folks, not someone who thinks the word itself is “horrifying.”

    Nico responds: If I had known to expect the Führer on my blog, I would have worn a clean shirt! No, I think my reaction is a gut one, there’s just something about the idea of a two-part society made of “Heroic Individuals” and “Ordinary Folks” that gets me a little anxious. That said, the Southern branch of my family is a big folks-sayer, and in that usage, it feels more like a regionalism than something designed for wickedness! Thanks for your comments.

  • Folks is a term beloved of GW Bush, and, therefore, suspect. Susan Jacobi, in her otherwise preachy and sort of dumb book, has a lot to say about the use of it (along with the use of the term troops) and its effect on the public conscience, such as it is.

    I like the Blossom Deary recording of Rhode Island is Famous for You. (I like the Blossom Deary recording of just about anything except I’m Always True to You Darling in My Fashion, where, like Ella Fitzgerald, she, inexplicably, gets the accents wrong, thereby, missing one of the internal rhymes and changing the meaning of the refrain).

  • I know Stanley Fish more as a Miltonist than as a public intellectual. Does that mean that I do or do not know him?

  • You do know everything. That Mandy Patinkin version doesn’t scare me nearly so much as gout 😉