Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bork Becomes a Verb

I've pondered the above title for some time. What does it say about a man when his name becomes another part of speech--or takes on a life of its own? With the exception of brands (Disney, Ford) or overt marketing (Bush Doctrine, Bush's War), what does it mean when one's name takes on a life of its own? Consider Reaganomics, for example, and a few others. (Add a few to the comments--what am I missing?)

Reaganomics--any economic plan that promotes low taxes, low social-services spending, and high military spending --which then contributes to low interest rates, low inflation, and large budget deficits.

Jeffersonian--Jeffersonians, so named after Thomas Jefferson, support a federal government with greatly constrained powers, as directed in the original U.S. Constitution, and state and local governments that are defenders of the rights and property of citizens. Jeffersonians have also held that the American economy should rely more on agriculture for strategic commodities, than on industry, which can easily be affected by foreign competition and technological change. Jeffersonians recognize both private and common property.

Madisonian--The Madisonian model is a fundamental part of the U.S. Constitution. Developed by James Madison, the model attempts to thwart factional tyranny in the U.S. government by establishing a system of separate powers, checks and balances, and federalism. The writings of French political theorist Baron de Montesquieu heavily influenced this vision for government.
But I can think of only two men whose names have actually become verbs, one of whom is Julius Caesar--whose name is really only an adverb at best (at least in English).

Caesarean--the delivery of a fetus by surgical incision through the abdominal wall and uterus (from the belief that Julius Caesar was born that way).

Consider this CNN transcript from July 1, 2005.

Here's special contributor Frank Sesno.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO (voice-over): The culture wars rage on, abortion, gay rights, the role of God in schools and public places, which is why the political battles over federal judges in the Senate confirmation process were so impassioned and just the warm-up for the real prize, the Supreme Court. Just ask this man.

BORK: I do, Mr. Chairman (audio from video clip).

SESNO: Judge Robert Bork. A judicial conservative and outspoken critic of activist judges, his nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987 broke nasty new ground in America's culture wars.

I visited with him in his suburban Virginia home to get his take 18 years later on the court, culture and his own confirmation hearings. (on camera): How did that feel, personally, to be the first one out of the cannon?

BORK: Well, I knew what was happening. The core of the issue was, they were afraid I would vote to overrule Roe against Wade. And they were quite right. [This position is different from his book, published fifteen years ago.]

SESNO: And your name became a verb.

BORK: My name became a verb. And I regard that as one form of immortality.

SESNO: To Bork means what?

BORK: I think to attack with -- to attack a person's reputation and views unfairly.

SESNO (voice-over): Bork on Bork. Like many conservatives, he feels the court is enacting law, not judging it, going way beyond what the framers intended or the Constitution allows.

BORK: The Supreme Court has become a major cultural force in this country. The court is clearly on the path to homosexual marriage as a constitutional right. They have been quite hostile to religion, driving it from the public square as much as they can.

SESNO: Whether it's court's decision striking down a ban on gay sex in Texas or forbidding organized prayer before high school football games, Bork says these justices for life have simply gone too far.

BORK: It's the one branch of government as to which there are no checks or balances.

SESNO: Separation of powers is being compromised, Bork argues, along with what he calls America's moral environment.

BORK: When they begin to say that the most blatant forms of pornography, including computer-simulated child pornography, is protected by free speech, they're changing the culture of this country.

SESNO: Sentiments which explain the passion and the frustration, especially among those conservatives who feel their political gains over the past two decades, from the White House to Congress to vast swathes of the country, have not been matched in the courts, a branch of government, they argue, out of sync with America.

So, White House officials have indicated they'll be looking for genuine judicial conservatives in the future, which is why Robert Bork believes his name will again become a verb in the national debate over the courts and culture and why interest groups and key senators have already mobilized along the same battle lines drawn nearly 20 years ago, when Planned Parenthood took out ads proclaiming Robert Bork's position on reproductive rights, "You don't have any," and some 180 civil rights and civil liberties groups joined forces to stop Bork.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yeas are 42. The nays are 58. The nomination is not confirmed.

SESNO: And they succeeded.

BORK: Nobody had ever seen radio ads, television ads, newspaper ads, and so forth by -- particularly by these activist left-wing groups. I think that started it and I think caused a lot of bad feeling between the parties.

SESNO (on camera): What's the likely scenario for future Supreme Court nominees?

BORK: Agony.

SESNO: You know something about that.

(LAUGHTER)

SESNO: And is it inevitable that future Supreme Court nominees are going to get Borked?

BORK: Oh, yes.

SESNO: Part of the culture wars?

BORK: Yes.

SESNO: Wars that really are about America's future. Think of it this way. If the next justice serves as long as William Rehnquist...

CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Will you raise your right hand, Mr. President?

SESNO: He or she will still be writing opinions in 2038.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Finally, Stuart Taylor of the National Journal has a great piece called "Borking Alito." It provides an excellent contrast between outrageous claims and the reality. I heard it read by the most-excellent Laura Ingraham, so I didn't bother buying the full article....

10 Comments:

Blogger e said...

if your name was a verb...what would you want it to mean...i took a criminal law quiz (whilst avoiding massive amounts of homework...at cafe artiste they have all these crazy houston magazines...and i found one on the law)...anyway...i didn't do too bad...

8:15 AM  
Blogger Steven Wales said...

You know, my name "Wales" doesn't really have the punch or the built-in humor of a funny word like "Bork." It seems a better candidate for an adjective. But I'd be proud to see it associated with something good and courageous, or at least mundane. But the Bork, thing? That's like having a disease named after you, you know? Like Lou Gehrig? Somehow that's not the sort of "immortality" that interests me.

According to the OED, Wales already means a series of low hills, like in corduroy, or foreigner (the Celts were called foreign by the invading Angles), or "wail." But wailing is the last thing I'd want to be known for. ("Whaling" on the other hand....)

2:06 PM  
Blogger Steven Wales said...

I have a friend that several of your blogging friends know--and he has made a name for himself by innocently saying stupid things. He once told an older woman (J.B.) "You know, I bet you were pretty when you were younger."

Then there was the time he listened to another lady (A.B.)complain that after four years in college, she'd gotten her first B during her final semester. "Really?" He says, "I'm proud of you!"

So now we just say, "You pulled a Chris Wolff."

2:10 PM  
Blogger Steven Wales said...

Thanks for the comment. I was afraid after I found and re-typed the Bork review that I had killed my blog site by revealing the extent to which my ideas were derived from his book. It's true, but I can honestly say, I had not been able to find that review until the other day. Everything I've been posting came from my head. Then I re-read the old review and realized I had been talking about so much of this stuff, posting it would burst the illusion that I was the genius who came up with it.... So, now you know the truth. (Although, I've been giving the goatee-wearing old man credit from day one.) P.S. Don't you think he looks like King Tut from the television's Batman with Adam West?

2:15 PM  
Blogger dennis said...

I've heard a different version- that the people known as "Welsh" today were so overrun by the Saxons that they were called foreigners in their own lands (Welas was the term I heard). That is different from our name, which we have been lead to believe by our forebearers to be an English surname (a name that is not found in Wales, by the way), which is given credence by the fact that near the city of Sheffield exists the tiny hamlet of Wales, where do live others with the same name.

As to verberizing the name (and begging the question of how to conjugate said verb), I would like to think that "to Wales" would be akin to an action that would make something difficult appear easy and natural, as in "he really walesed that test, while everyone else struggled."

But even if it just meant to wax poetic, that would be fine too (listen to how he waleses that story- everyone just hangs on every word...)

4:11 PM  
Blogger Steven Wales said...

Well, I'm sure if Sploosh (the mystery that he is) were consulted, he would say 'to Wales' means 'to filter out no extraneous detail, to have little sense of one's audience and to chase rabbits until the whole point of the story in question is forgotten entirely, as in:

"He Walesed the story until everyone present had either fallen asleep or stalked off in anger."

Now, where was I?

Oh, yeah, and as to the etymology, I respectfully dissent. The modern wales comes from welas, and the name Wales is (my forebear said) neither English, nor found anywhere in London's phone books, circa 1966.
Who would you rather be related to, the Celtic peoples of Wales, Ireland, Scotland (see book on how the Scots birthed Western civ.) and Zeta Jones? Or lime-eating blokes like Prince Charles?

5:07 PM  
Blogger e said...

if my name was a verb...i would want it to mean...to laugh...to hughes...how cool would that be..."we hughesed our heads off!"...or the lol...would be hol...hughesed out loud...yeah...that's it...

dennis...my favorite europeans live in the lovely city of sheffield...where i spent a significant amount of time chillin' when i was over yonder...there is a cave called the devil's arse...when i saw it...i hughesed my head off...see...see how easy it is...now you try

12:28 AM  
Blogger Steven Wales said...

Laugh. That's a great answer. And if your first name were Isaac, you could be "Laughter, Laughter." Sort of like TB's son, River Bisagno, or in English, "River, River."

12:59 AM  
Blogger dennis said...

Limey! I don't know what to say- I found my information in London from a guy who claimed to be able to look that stuff up. he had several books at hand to which he looked, but I don't really know for sure. The fact remains that we are descended from the Celts (who were originally as far south as Gaul, aka Germany) via several ancestors, but also from a few others. Where exactly Wales originated is left for some debate. Perhaps we should go there together to research it.

4:09 PM  
Blogger dennis said...

as a matter of fact, an online search of the national archives of the UK reveals that there were several hundred "Wales" in England for the 1851 census, including 3 named Dennis. 2 were Stephen, but none named Steven. There were also about 100 Wales in Wales at that time.
As we already know, though, our Wales ancestor came in the 18th century and was in South
Carolina at the time of the late 1700s.

4:36 PM  

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