Sunday, December 5, 2010

Away With Words

Barack Hussein Obama unexpectedly flew to Afghanistan this week for three reasons: to raise the morale of American troops, to be photographed wearing a flight jacket and stitches, and - most importantly - to give him a chance to say "Tollybon."

Tollybon, tollybon, tollybon!

There are some sounds which have almost unbelievable power to shred nerves and annoy. Fingernails on a chalkboard. The cries of a baby in a movie theater. President Bush saying "nook-you-ler." But topping the list, for us anyway, is Mr. Obama's aggressively nuanced styling of the word "Taliban."

When he says "Tollybon," the word is clipped and distinct, vowels are reshaped, and the sound is redolent with exotic spices from the Far if to deliberately remind us that the president deserves special credibility because he was raised in a Muslim culture in Indonesia. He spits the word out like an insult to plainspoken, unworldly Americans who lack his multi-cultural roots.

And with that one word, Barack Obama reminds us that the conversation is really, and always, about him.

Not the troops. Not the war. Not our country. Not even, truly, about the Taliban - even when speaking to the American men and women whose lives are on the line in a distant land.



Tim said...

Hey, Mr. Tollybon, tolly me banana. Daylignt come, and me wanna go home.

alan markus said...

The other day I read that he "unexpectantly" went there because he will be going on a two-week vacation to Hawaii over Christmas, and this trip provides some political cover for criticism that he is having a good time in the sun while soldiers are in a war zone.

As you said, it is always about him.

Anonymous said...

I agree Stilton. I sense layers to Obama's odd pronunciations. Kind of like a parfait of multicultural meanings and decidedly nonAmerican.

tfhr said...

Anytime I hear this pretender try to imply, through the use of bogus pronunciations and faux accented word use, that he has some sort of worldly cred, I wonder why we don't hear him do the same with the sounds of other foreign words. After all, shouldn't he pronounce Mexico as "Meh-hee-co", when addressing the carnage taking place in that nation's drug war? Oh, that's right, we're ignoring that debacle and as such cannot be bothered to protect the border in Tejas, Nuevo Meh-hee-co, etc.

Maybe he's just limited to his childhood exposure to people with Indonesian accents and his college days spent with "friends" from "Pah-key-stohn". Yeah, that's an expansive and meaningful sample of "multicultural" world experience. Then again, I've heard that he has discovered a language that nobody else was aware of, including those that speak it: Austrian.

I lived in the UK for a time and during my stay I would occasionally run across other Americans that would affect a Brit accent of some sort - I say "sort" because they are highly localized and do not allow you to pick and choose certain aspects while ignoring other elements, as many of these pretenders would foolishly do for purposes I could not fathom. Yet they did it and I can only imagine that they did so in a failed attempt to impress others. My British friends enjoyed ridiculing them behind their backs.

Then again, my friends always marveled at Gwyneth Paltrow and her ability to sound, as well as act, British. I told them they were racists for this as she is white, not British.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

Tim- Thanks for getting that song stuck in my head for the rest of the day!

Alan- Let's don't be harsh about Obama going to Hawaii for two weeks. He hasn't had a vacation in days, and it's the only chance he gets to spend quality time with his birth certificate.

Anonymous- Obama's layers would be like a parfait, except that Donkey (in Shrek) reminded us that "everybody likes parfaits!"

tfhr- You make an excellent point. Why single out "Taliban" for a localized pronunciation and not other words? Because it hews more closely to his own experience or (ahem) interests?

Suzy said...

So many times the things Obama says or does strikes me as so elementary-grade-schoolish.

Larry Sheldon said...

One of us has missed the point.

The reason he went there was to be out of town when the unemployment stats hit the fan.

Only this, and nothing more.

Anonymous said...

Larry. You may be correct on WHY he was out of town. But it's interesting to listen to how Obama changes his dialect, intonations, and other speech patterns to identify with select target audiences. A really revealing speech was one he gave prior to the November election to hispanic audiences on Univision (I think) where he clipped his words to sound like someone who had recently mastered English as a second language. I can't help but presume that this was a conscious choice. I know other politicians do the same types of things, adding drawls, etc. But Obama always manages to sound haughty and elitist. I don't marvel at his elocution, I wince.

Anonymous said...

tfhr hit the nail on the head. I noticed the same thing in college in '78-82 when the Sandanistas were the sympathetic figures for many leftists. Pronunciation is a signalling mechanism -- pronouncing "Managua" and "Nicaragua" in the *proper* manner showed sympathy. No matter that they were speaking English, and American English, for that matter.

Jeff H said...

Would it be racist to mention, in the comment section of a post about Obama which also used the word "roots", "Kunta Kinte"?

Inquiring minds want to know...