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My Very Slight Contribution to the "Pansy-Gate" Discussion:

The line is reported at :

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley (D) made his endorsement official this morning, saying that Hillary Clinton "gets it" and is a fighter who he said "makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy."

The editor of the Washington Blade (I'm still embarrassed that it took me years to get the pun in its name) reports on the controversy and dismisses it as overreaction (thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer).

But my thought, prompted by a glance in the Oxford English Dictionary, is that maybe we're misunderstood Gov. Easley:

3. slang.

a. A remarkable or outstanding person. Cf. DAISY n. 5. Now disused.

1899 G. ADE Fables in Slang 63 The Parishioners did not seem inclined to seek him out after Services and tell him he was a Pansy. 1920 G. ADE Hand-made Fables 62 For every Pansy in this conservative Town there were 14 Rutabagas.

Maybe he meant that for every pansy in the Senate race there are 14 rutabagas. Or for every pansy in Philadelphia. Or that Rocky was a pansy, and Hillary is a rutabaga? Not sure, but I thought I'd point out the possibility. Mmmm, rutabagas.

Smokey:
a. A remarkable or outstanding person. Cf. DAISY n. 5. Now disused.
Brings to mind Val Kilmer in Tombstone, telling a gunman who's intending to kill him: "You're a daisy if you do."
4.30.2008 4:04pm
Confused:
"...the Washington Blade (I'm still embarrassed that it took me years to get the pun in its name)...."

Okay, I've been racking my brain, and I still don't see the pun. Please explain.
4.30.2008 4:09pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Confused: Well, maybe it's so obvious to you that you don't even see a pun. Hint: It's not the same reason why the Toledo newspaper is called the Toledo Blade. Better Hint: Fill in the blank, "___ Blade."
4.30.2008 4:13pm
Michael A. Koenecke:
All I can think of is the movie "Zorro, the Gay Blade," so I assume that is the derivation, since it's evidently a paper focusing on the homosexual community. But that's not a pun. A play on words, perhaps, but not a pun.
4.30.2008 4:24pm
83048304:
I don't get it either, Eugene, what's the pun?
4.30.2008 4:30pm
Allen G:
That last reference is even more boggling in context (grabbed from Google Books):

For every Pansy in this Conservative Town there were 14 Rutabagas.

You Know the Cracker and Milk Buddies who shave their own Necks.

Good Moral Men who needed the Vacuum Cleaner.

Mr. Foster s Ambition was to shoot a little Tabasco into all the Amoses and Ezras and get them to do something for their Home Town.

4.30.2008 4:30pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Michael Koenecke: Ridiculous!
4.30.2008 4:32pm
hawkins:

Fill in the blank, "___ Blade."


Razor?
4.30.2008 4:38pm
83048304:
Whatever it is, it's not a very good pun if it's not obvious.
4.30.2008 4:40pm
Kazinski:
Easly shouldn't have used the term pansy, because it could be construed as gay bashing. The word he should have used is "pantiwaist" because its origin is etymologically clean and demonstrably does not refer to gender, gender confusion or homosexuallity.
4.30.2008 4:44pm
Ben P (mail):

Easly shouldn't have used the term pansy, because it could be construed as gay bashing. The word he should have used is "pantiwaist" because its origin is etymologically clean and demonstrably does not refer to gender, gender confusion or homosexuallity.


However, use of such a term would have put me in great doubt that Governor Easley was aware it was 2008 and not 1908.

Should he have also used the word "fisticuffs" to describe the activity Rocky engages in?

I kid, I kid.
4.30.2008 4:52pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Oh how we have fallen if this rises to the level of being a -gate.
4.30.2008 4:54pm
Donald (mail) (www):
Since Easley was using a boxing metaphor, isn't it likely that he meant that Clinton makes Rocky look like a "patsy"?
4.30.2008 5:22pm
jim47:

Better Hint: Fill in the blank, "___ Blade."


Straight blade?
4.30.2008 5:26pm
andy (mail) (www):

"Well, maybe it's so obvious to you that you don't even see a pun."



So it took you years to figure out, but now you're convinced that it's "so obvious"?
4.30.2008 5:51pm
Tom Myers (www):

Better Hint: Fill in the blank, "___ Blade."

Vorpal blade?
4.30.2008 5:55pm
83048304:
Is there some reason why someone who doesn't know what the pun/joke is can't simply state it? I'm really curious now.
4.30.2008 6:07pm
83048304:
Sorry, I meant "someone who does know."
4.30.2008 6:08pm
Philistine (mail):
Is it a play on "the pen is mightier than the sword"? (Making the _________ "sword").
4.30.2008 6:09pm
Serendipity:
If it's any consolation, I'm a big homo and I still can't figure out the pun...
4.30.2008 6:10pm
Freddy Hill:
Well, the Washington Blade used to be called the Gay Blade, but is that a pun?

---------------------------

gay blade (plural gay blades)

(obsolete) a dashing swordsman
(dated) a dashing youth
(slang) a gay person, or person displaying homosexual qualities.
He is such a gayblade.

[edit] Quotations1941 Jonathan Daniels - Tar Heels: A Portrait of North Carolina
At college he was a gay blade who played the guitar or one of the instruments for the accompaniment of song.
Retrieved from "http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gay_blade"
4.30.2008 6:18pm
Al Maviva (mail):
Swordsman, of course, being another oblique sexual reference, that Eugene may need several years to figure out...
4.30.2008 6:32pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Whatever it is, it's not a very good pun if it's not obvious."

The Blade began publication in the 70s, and any person who was gay at the time would have caught the pun. Today, perhaps not so much, as 'gay blade' hasn't been used in years. But back then, most any gay man would have caught it.

Regarding pansies, I could never figure out why they are associated with weakness, femininity, and gays. You plant them in the early spring, and they hold up under the worst weather conditions, like frost, hard rain, dramatic changes in temperature. They are hardy little crittures, for sure.

So, yes, I am proud to be a pansy. As should you.
4.30.2008 6:33pm
General Disarray:
For those of you who still don't get the pun . . .

"pun (pŭn) n. A play on words, sometimes on different senses of the same word and sometimes on the similar sense or sound of different words."

Source.

The word "blade" has two senses relevant to this discussion: (1) the sense cited above by Freddy Hill and others, in which it refers to a homosexual person; and, (2) the sense in which it's used by, to steal Eugene's example, the Toledo Blade. (To be honest I don't fully understand the latter sense of the word. But I accept that it exists and that it has nothing to do with the former sense, because I'm familiar with the Toledo Blade and it's not a gay paper.)

Under the latter sense of the word the Washington Blade would be a perfectly acceptable title for a newspaper, regardless of its point of view on matters of sexual orientation. But under the former sense Washington Blade takes on a somewhat different meaning -- one that's perfectly appropriate for a gay newspaper. Thus the title is a play on words rooted in the two senses of the word blade -- the homosexual sense, and the typical newspaper sense. And that seems to satisfy the definition of a pun. Get it?
4.30.2008 6:56pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Allen G: Are you sure it wasn't some sort of randomly generated text created to fool early 1900s spam filters?

Hawkins: Try again. It's a bit more obscure, but should still be moderately familiar.
4.30.2008 6:59pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Whoops, Freddy Hill gave it away ....
4.30.2008 7:03pm
davod (mail):
"pantiwaist" word origin does not matter. This sounds much worse and would probably have everyone upset.
4.30.2008 7:03pm
Asher (mail):
This flap is absurd. He couldn't possibly have been saying that Rocky seems gay compared to Hillary. That doesn't even make sense. Compared to Hillary, Rocky is gay? Obviously he meant that compared to her, he seems weak.
4.30.2008 7:09pm
83048304:

Randy R.: "The Blade began publication in the 70s, and any person who was gay at the time would have caught the pun. Today, perhaps not so much, as 'gay blade' hasn't been used in years. But back then, most any gay man would have caught it."



Thanks, Randy, but what's the pun???

Then, General Disarray comments that:


[T]he sense in which it's used by, to steal Eugene's example, the Toledo Blade. (To be honest I don't fully understand the latter sense of the word. But I accept that it exists and that it has nothing to do with the former sense, because I'm familiar with the Toledo Blade and it's not a gay paper.)

Under the latter sense of the word the Washington Blade would be a perfectly acceptable title for a newspaper, regardless of its point of view on matters of sexual orientation. But under the former sense Washington Blade takes on a somewhat different meaning -- one that's perfectly appropriate for a gay newspaper. Thus the title is a play on words rooted in the two senses of the word blade -- the homosexual sense, and the typical newspaper sense. And that seems to satisfy the definition of a pun. Get it?


Right, we can consult dictionary definitions ourselves, thanks, and we understand what a pun is, but what is the pun???
4.30.2008 7:09pm
swg:

Mmmm, rutabagas.

I think you really mess with the meaning of the thought-expression "Mmmmm, [some food]" if rutabagas (gross!) can be that food.
4.30.2008 7:16pm
Hoosier:
Ben P--Either that or "pugilism."

No doubt an honest mistake in the Carolinas. After all, Democrats in SC appear not to know what "light in the loafers" mean.
4.30.2008 7:41pm
Kazinski:
Davod,

...word origin does not matter. This sounds much worse and would probably have everyone upset.


I suppose you are right, almost as bad as if a Hillary supporter called Obama "niggardly" for failing to tip at a coffee shop.
4.30.2008 7:45pm
Hoosier:
Just dawned on me how to wrap these disparate threads up like the end of a Seinfeld episode. Sexuality, Rutabagas, Suggestive References.

I present to you: Frank Zappa's "Call Any Vegetable:"

Call any vegetable
And the chances are good
That a vegetable will respond to you-hoooo

RUTA-BAY-AY-AYGA RUTA-BAY-AY-AYGA
RUTA-BAY-AY-AYGA RUTA-BAY-AY-AYGA
RUTA-BAYYYYY . . .
4.30.2008 7:46pm
General Disarray:
83048304,

We seem to be talking past one another. The name of the newspaper means "Washington Blade" (in the usual newspaper sense of "blade") and it also means "Washington Homosexual," which is apropros since it's a gay paper. That's the pun. Period. If you don't see it, then I assume we must have a definitional problem: you think a pun is something other than what I (and apparently Eugene and some others) do. That's why I included the definition in my previous post, but it doesn't seem to have helped.
4.30.2008 8:12pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
The sense of blade as used by the Toledo Blade makes far more sense to me than any homosexual reference. It makes me think of a knife slicing through the spin whether that's true or not is beside the point. Much the same sense as the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
4.30.2008 8:35pm
ReaderY:
Perhaps "pansy" has met the same fate as "square" and "swell". Just a person who thinks "square" is a good thing is just a square, and a person who thinks "swell" is so a good thing is just a swell, maybe "pansy" has come to mean the kind of person so out of it as to think "pansy" is a good thing.
4.30.2008 9:37pm
Whatever you want it to be:
I think this flap is a little silly. Most people don't associate "pansy" with "homosexual" per se--it's more associated with being a wimp/wuss/weiner, etc. You get to homosexual from that in a pretty roundabout way. Of course, that didn't stop one of my first-year law school professors from getting pretty upset when someone used the word in class. She was a great prof and very even-handed with a pretty touchy subject (Con Law), but she was an extremely liberal lesbian and her sensitivity to those issues definitely came out that day.
4.30.2008 9:41pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
To reiterate: "gay blade" was an expression meaning a lighthearted person (presumably using "gay" in the sense of "happy," and blade coming from who knows where). Thus the pun is that "The Washington Blade" refers to a gay, in the modern sense, newspaper.

I suppose one could found a DC newspaper devoted to heterosexual issues and entitle it the "Washington Razor," omitting "straight" from razor.

(Were there ever any razors that were not straight? They'd have made shaving a bit difficult and risky).
4.30.2008 10:02pm
Porkchop:
Presumably the Toledo Blade derives its name from Toledo steel and the edged weapons made from it by the swordsmiths of Toledo, Spain. It would not only "cut through spin," it would "get to the point" with rapier-like analysis (sorry, I just couldn't resist) -- but most of all, it would suggest a newspaper of the highest quality to those familiar with real Toledo blades.

I'm not so sure the Washington "Blade" is really a pun. Isn't it more of a double entendre?
4.30.2008 11:05pm
Hoosier:
Isn't "Plain Dealer" a reference to Dr. Johnson/

(And in this case, my use of "Dr. Johnson" is NOT a double entendre.)
4.30.2008 11:30pm
General Disarray:
I think it is a double entendre, but I don't know that puns and double entendres are necessarily mutually exclusive. The definition I posted earlier doesn't seem to suggest that they are. I'd agree that this isn't what I consider the most traditional kind of pun, but that doesn't mean it's not a pun at all.
4.30.2008 11:32pm
Hoosier:
My Very Slight Contribution to the "Pansy-Gate" Discussion

Might we even call your contribution "effete"?
5.1.2008 8:10am
83048304:
General Disarray: The name of the newspaper means "Washington Blade" (in the usual newspaper sense of "blade") and it also means "Washington Homosexual," which is apropros since it's a gay paper. That's the pun. Period. If you don't see it, then I assume we must have a definitional problem: you think a pun is something other than what I (and apparently Eugene and some others) do. That's why I included the definition in my previous post, but it doesn't seem to have helped.

I think we are using the same definition, but in order to appreciate (or even recognize) a pun, one must know that a word is being used in two different senses, and that was the point of my inquiry. I didn't know the different ways in which the word "blade" can be used, but you've now explained that. Thanks.
5.1.2008 10:19am