Thursday, December 24, 2015

From Trees the Same Height to Schlonged

Oh get schlonged. This has led to a whole new cultural meme. People seem to really be trying to figure out what this term means and why Trump used it. I think I just used it here in its correct sense-and this seemed obvious from when Trump first said it.

UPDATE: I neglected to even explain the 'trees the same height' in the title. This was what Mitt Romney had been panned on in a 2012 speech in his supposedly native Michigan-'I love the state of Michigan where all the trees are the same height.'

The point is this time in the 2012 primary that was what the Republican frontrunner was being panned on-what does he mean by 'trees the same heigh; wow he's bad at small talk.' This time we're asking what the GOP frontrunner means by 'She got schlonged.'

It means to be crude but to the point-fucked; schlonged here equals fucked. Getting 'fucked' in the literal sense can be a good thing but it can also mean in the bad sense-'getting screwed' , which connotes being taken advantage of or being real unlucky-being taken advantage of by Fate herself. What Trump was really saying is losing is getting screwed. Trump is now using the example of the the 1984 Mondale-Ferraro ticket-interestingly that was involving a woman too though she was the VP candidate. So maybe when a female candidate loses to a male the schlonged analogy comes into it?

In any case it's amazing to me how much time has been used trying to interpret what schlonged means. I feel like the basic meaning is pretty obvious and not particularly interesting-Trump got crude; and this is surprising how? But a lot of people are very preoccupied by it. According to Josh Marshall, there is now a whole Trutther movement behind it.

"I wanted to follow up on my overnight post noting that rapidly emerging "schlong" revisionist analysis of Donald Trump's statement which now - a mere dozen hours later - has emerged into a full-fledged "schlong truth" movement. Trump himself is doubling down on "schlong" and has enlisted Jeff Greenfield who is vouching for the normalness and non-sexual meaning of the phrase. It was unclear to me at first from Greenfield's tweet whether he was basing this on personal experience as a New York Trump contemporary (Greenfield is only slightly older than Trump but, according toWikipedia, grew up in tonier Manhattan, not the outer boroughs or Long Island) or based on new research. But I got a reply from Greenfield below which clears up any question on that front."

"Again, I read it as basically using a sexual analogy for a non-sexual thing-losing a political race. I suspect Trump used the word because Hilary is a female-though in theory this could be used for anyone. Let's see what Greenfield has to say, though."

"Since our initial post we have had a number of TPM Readers (generally men born between 1940 and 1952 in Queens and Long Island) who have clear testimony about what we might call the "Trump/Schlong" usage (aging Jewish male readership finally comes in handy!)."

Speaking of Jewish males of a certain age, Bernie had a great answer to Trump's aspersions on Hillary simply needing a bathroom break.

While I'm not a Bernie supporter that was his finest hour. I guess his 'damn emails' moment was his finest hour as well. He's had a few of them. If nothing else, he earns himself some goodwill when HRC is the nominee.

Rand Paul also, for some reason, took issue with HRC's bathroom break, saying that Carly Fiorina is always on time. Ok, so maybe the GOP Congress wants another committee investigation with Benghazi floundering. Why was Hillary really late from the commercial break?

"Ok, so back to Josh's reader:"

"For instance, TPM Reader BR explains the following ..."

"I also grew up on Long Island at the same time as Trump (born in 1949). I too remember "got shlonged" as a common expression (usually in sports) with no sexual overtone. My only criticism of Trump's usage would be that in my recollection the term applies to a team, not an individual. "We got shlonged" sounds right, "I got shlonged" totally wrong. "He got shlonged" doesn't seem as right as "they got shlonged," but the difference isn't as clear-cut to me."

"I also think that the everyone probably has the etymology wrong. The more likely etymology is from Yiddish & German schlingen, meaning to devour food. (I know the verb from the Yiddish song "Un az der rebbe zingt" with "Un az der rebbe esst, shlingn alle khasidim," although the version I see on the internet is different.) The simple past tense of this word in German (that tense doesn't exist in Yiddish) is schlang."

"So not only did Trump not make the word up, not only is it not vulgar, but it may not even come from Yiddish."

Ok, a few things. Logically an individual as well as a team can lose so why can it only apply to plural usage? In sports sexual imagery is used to describe a loss.

"Just last night I finished yet another wonderful and engrossing new book by New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman ("How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee"). I have had a love affair with New Testament biblical criticism, with a strong historicist bent, ever sense I met and learned so much in college from one of my two favorite professors, the great historian John Gager - one of just a handful of people in my life who really taught me how to think. One of the main things I learned after years of studying this subject is to sift for the earliest sources, use various evidentiary standards like the 'criterion of dissimilarity', the 'criterion of multiple attestation' and so forth. Setting aside all the technical language, this basically means finding multiple sources/testimonies which do not in fact rely on each other, preferring those that are closest to the time of the events in question and privileging those which either seem indifferent to or run against the presumed biases of the sources of the testimony."

"This is part of why BR's testimony is so interesting to me. It seems clear to me - based on BR's testimony and ones from at least half a dozen other people - that in the 1950s in Queens and the near-adjoining parts of Long Island "schlonged" was a known phrase, often used in sports references, and at least from the youthful memories of our witnesses could be used without the users having a strong conscious sense of any sexual meaning behind it. The frequency with which it is remembered as being mainly a sports metaphor is notable."

"At the same time, from emails, Facebook discussions and other sources I've seen numerous Jews, people with deep familiarity with Yiddish, saying they have never,ever heard the phrase used in this way. And as BR notes - from what seems to be a fairly deep familiarity with Yiddish - it's possible that it may not even be Yiddish. Or perhaps, more specifically and more likely, it may be a neologism derived from Yiddish by non-Yiddish speakers. (In an inverse manner, some scholars believe we can isolate some of the oldest, pre-literary Christian traditions in the New Testamentin part on the basis of Semitic grammatical and syntactical structures which seem to have been imported from Aramaic into Greek.)"

"We have another account from TPM Reader BD who grew up in this general area in the 60s and 70s, in other words a good ten to twenty years after the putative Queens/Long Island schlong era."

"I grew up on Long Island too, 20 minutes from the Queens border. I’m not Jewish but between friends and my father, who was a former shabbos goy, I've heard and used Yiddish all my life. Schlong has, in LI/Queens usage, no meaning other than penis. I don’t really remember hearing the verb schlonged much if at all, but even if it was commonly used the connection to penis is unmistakable. Yes, it would be a milder way of saying “fucked."

"TPM Reader SR is similar, exact geographical location but a generation younger ..."

"I grew up in Queens in the 1960s and '70s. My home was in Jamaica Estates, blocks from the Trump house on Midland Parkway, which I would walk past on my way to the F train stop at 179th st."

"No one I knew or hung out with used "schlong" to mean "beat" or "defeat." The term was not common at all but if it came up it was clearly understood as a Yiddish word for penis. You wouldn't use it in polite company."

"Then there's TPM Reader HR ..."

"I grew up on Long Island, in a place called Elmont. Graduate high school in 1992. So I am significantly younger than Trump. My high school was also fairly diverse for LI. White, Blacks (African-American and Carribbean), South Asians, East Asians, Southeast Asians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhist."

"We heard “schlong” a lot. It wasn’t used just as a synonym for “penis,” but a “big, Black penis.” It was radicalized and offensive. To be “Schlonged,” which wasn’t common, but not unheard of, would be the equivalent of saying someone got raped/sodomized by a Black man."

"I’ve not been exposed to a linguistic change that becomes more racist over time, so while I’m almost a generation later than Trump in Long Island, my suspicion is that his usage is akin to what I know."

"I found his comment deeply offensive, more so than the bathroom comment, and didn’t understand why it didn’t raise more ire. I wonder now if it really is a regionalism, so it wouldn’t even rise to the level of dog whistle."

"Now, as HR notes, he's quite a bit younger than Trump. What's notable in HR's account is that he either had never heard the verb use of 'schlonged' or only rarely. But based on the noun's meaning would infer it meant a racialized version of being raped."

"Finally, there's TPM Reader TS - same age but from the Los Angeles area."

Yeah, I’d heard the word before, only in Los Angeles, same era. I knew what the root word meant, so the verb form of the word was easy to interpret. At that time, dick was the equivalent word used by us goyim. If I’d say “You got dicked.” You’d take it to mean that “You got fucked.” To go, then, to “destroyed” as a meaning, you’d have to go through “You got fucked.” to “You got destroyed.” or “You got ripped off.” first and then retranslated it a second time.

"My point. It started out as a dick and didn’t get any more polite no matter how many times it was remeaninged, retensed or reinterpreted."

"Now I did hear back from Jeff Greenfield, who Trump has - seemingly to Jeff's chagrin - roped in as his schlong fact witness ..."

"(sigh). First, this is my last venture into Yiddish linguistics.(Dana MIlbank's WaPo piece was brilliant, by the way). Second, it's a term I've been familiar with more or less forever. My old boss Dave Garth--whose vocabulary was colorful in many languages--used it all the time to talk about someone getting clobbered. It turns out that Frank Rich among several others agrees; you likely saw that Jake Tapper unearthed a 2011 NPR (!!!) interview where there's reference to the Mondale-Ferraro ticket "getting schlonged" in '84. What's startling is how many New Yorkers say they NEVER heard the phrase without its original phallic meaning. Go figure... Two other points: 1) Trump's revulsion about HRC using a bathroom is the REAL jaw-dropper here. You;d need a panel of shrinks to deal with that. 2). The venomous, obscene, rants that filled by Twitter feed--from Trump-ists and Trumpophobes, etc--is profoundly unsettling. I've long known, of course, that anonymity enables such behavior, butI have not experienced it until now so directly. (I have gained hundreds of followers, most of whom i will have to block, because of their repellant language)."

"To sum it up with no double entendre--gevalt!"

Ok. That is ah awful lot of analysis over the word schlonged. Josh Marshall gives his final verdict:

"Based on all the evidence, what seems clear is that in a certain era (say 1945 to 1965) and in a certain region (Queens and adjoining Long Island) this was a commonly used phrased, most often used in a sports context, which meant getting clobbered or beaten. The available evidence also suggests that it was limited to this region. (The odd man out here is Frank Rich, who fits the age profile but grew up in Washington, DC. He's been in the generational milieu in New York long enough, however, that he perhaps picked it up atmospherically as adult.) It even seems possible that the Yiddish derivation of this usage may even be in question. What seems most likely is that this was (as I speculated yesterday) a particular Queens/Long Island Yiddish-derived neologism that sprung up mid-century but also died out within a generation or so. But it's still remembered by men who knew and used it at that time."

"All this said, even if men of this age used it without a conscious sexual meaning, it's hard to imagine it would be difficult to unpack the original sexual derivation - just as many of us today say "screwed" or "sucked." But it's just as clear that many men from that era did use it and didn't think of it having a sexual context. One might also counter, aren't these men in their 60s and 70s just more tone-deaf to sexually offensive phrases? That is definitely possible. Indeed, a generational component goes without saying. I will leave that analysis to others."

"Meanwhile, in The New Republic, Jeet Heer makes the extra-textual argument that even if we accept schlong revisionism as a historical matter we cannot see the incident outside the context of Trump being a sexist, racist asshole. Indeed, anyone should know that whatever "schlonged" means, "schlong" means penis. And this is just not a way to refer to the first and still only competitive female candidate for President. I have no disagreement with that way of looking at the controversy."

I surely wouldn't look at it any other way. The idea that it means 'lost' in a nonsexual sense ignores that talk of winning and losing, certainly in sports and elsewhere, is suffused with sexual imagery. Those man of a certain age, came from a generation that tended to repress sexual expression-ie, they would use sexual imagery without consciously realizing it-Josh himself considers this.

At the end of the day, there was nothing innocent in Trump's use of it and it'd be naive to ignore Hillary's gender-or the President's race in the context.

P.S. There is a good deal of bedwetting-surely my crude neologism doesn't need explanation; it was a favored term of the Obama campaign in 2008-about Trump's attacks on Hillary.

To the contrary as Josh Marshall and Greg Sargent have argued, it's a boon for both of them. For those two to be fighting is a win-win. A lot of folks are really upset though. Rachel Maddow had her puppy out last night to cope with Trump.

Though I love her show, I was a little impatient with it last night. I get that it's meant to be therapeutic but I'm not a therapy guy to be honest. I'm a get it done guy. That's just me.

There's the worry that Trump could attack her this way in the general, maybe on the same stage. Morning Joe is warning that Buckley always warned against debating an amateur-you will always lose.

I think this is a mistake as it mixes apples and oranges. I think it's fair to say that I was very early on the Trump Democrat bandwagon-I was on it by July. I too was initially outraged by his Mexican slurs at his opening press conference but soon realized the Trump campaign is very much a feature not a bug.

My whole premise is, for now, I'm a Trump man-a 'Trump Democrat.' As long as the GOP primary goes on for. Now the day it ends and Trump is the nominee, that ends. But not before.

Could Trump give Hill a run for her money in the general? If he comports himself like this, not even close. You have to understand that there is the GOP base and then there is the general election audience and these two are more or less mirror images of each other. What boosts Trump in one, tanks him in the other.

Trump's approval outside of his primary supporters is terrible. Roughly the same proportion of people outside the base hate him now as those inside the base love him.

No doubt, when he insults HRC for simply going to the bathroom and that she got 'schlonged' you shouldn't even need to ask the question: hell, yes, it will increase his popularity within the GOP primary.

They love this stuff in the base. But the mainstream voters don't find it at all amusing. Which is perfect for Hillary. All his antics make him more popular with the base while at the same time more unpopular outside it. Can you imagine a more perfect candidate?

The ads will be the easiest thing in the world to put together. We already have all the footage. Now Trump is not stupid and knows that you have to play to your audience. He knows that a mainstream audience is very different than a GOP primary audience.

So to have any shot he'll have to make some adjustments-which I think he'll be able to do. So I don't think you'll see him literally tell her to 'Get schlonged' on stage. If he does it will be his funeral-or more to the point, the GOP's.

No, the premise of the Trump Democrat theory was always that Trump is the dream candidate. I'm not backing off from that. Though I do think he might be tougher than Ted Cruz-who is a movement conservative and nothing but.
P.S.S. My argument throughout has been with the Very Serious People who predict this or that outrageous antic from Trump is the end of his primary campaign.

However, I guess I have to respond to a new front of people who worry that Trump will not just win the primary but the general. Before making any such prediction, please bear in mind how different a GOP primary audience and general election audience are-they are not just very different but what delights the one, repulses the other.

Those who worry about this are still missing my whole premise-that the modern GOP is just totally dysfunctional with a totally dysfunctional base who doesn't actually support supply side libertarianism but rather is scared of social change. My theory was always a theory of the Republican party, nothing more, nothing less.


  1. Google "schlong definition" ... riddle solved.

  2. Mike, if we extrapolate forward to October of 2016, when it's Trump vs Hillary in the general, and Trump is behind in the polls... can you imagine? What is he going to be like? Perhaps he'll have dropped all pretense by that point... and stop trying to BS us about what he said actually means. Imagine how "liberating" that will be to his core supporters... if he just let's it rip. I can only imagine the depths to which his (and his supporters') vulgarity will have sunk... I only hope that Clinton doesn't let it get to her.

    I imagine that the FCC might have to loosen up its rules, just so we can listen to the bulk of Trump's speeches and debates on the public airwaves. We have every indication that this is where things are headed. Perhaps his speeches will be filled with not just words like "schlonged" but also "skank," "whore," "cunt," "bitch," "tramp," "slut," etc. Here's my prediction for a Trump stump speech in October of 2016:

    "I'm gonna bend that dirty bitch Hillary over and fuck the shit out of her nasty old crusty cunt! I mean that figuratively people... and if I wasn't talking figuratively, you'd better BELIEVE I'd wear plenty of protection... I'll put on a whole box of condoms, 'cause there's no tellin' what vile diseases a worthless dirty gutter whore like Hillary is infested with! I'm not gonna talk about it anymore because it's too disgusting to think about. Way too disgusting! I don't like having to use this kind of language and I wouldn't if it wasn't for Hillary being exactly like she actually is: a contemptible, shrill, lying skank, harpy and shrieking hideous shrew!"

    Having gone there, he'll soon be leap-frogged by the likes of Ann Coulter, who'll take the insults and language a step further in her new best-selling book of cutting edge "conservative" political thought: "Hillary's Smelly Old Piece-of-Shit Cunt." Fox News will apply for permission to be exempted from FCC rules, so that Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly can match Trump's language. Same for Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham.

    Soon it'll be de rigueur in conservative circles to use equivalent language in news articles, editorials, blog posts, or at any GOP or "conservative" event or campaign rally (congressional, senate or otherwise).

    When Hillary gives her first address to congress as president, it won't just be one congressman screaming "Liar!"... it'll be a constant series of loud disrespectful catcalls with the harshest & ugliest explicit "Trumpian" language imaginable. Evangelicals won't be able to let their children watch politics anymore for fear they'll have to explain what the words mean... and they'll blame Hillary, Democrats and the 'liberal media' for it.

    The GOP will be fully "unmasked" for what they are! The taboos shattered, the bars lowered, all standards of civilized behavior undermined and the dawn of a 'great' new era in American politics will begin! ;D

    1. ... and when a notable Hillary supporter publicly calls Trump and his mob "dicks" for their contemptible language, the Beltway media will be writing articles with headlines like:

      "Trump and Clinton Campaigns Both Dive in the Gutter with Vile Language!"

  3. Also, Merry Christmas Mike!!! Hope you have a great one! :D