May 13, 2009

"Elvis the ecstatic/ Elvis the plastic/ Elvis the elastic with a spastic dance that could explain the energy of America.”

Bono's poem about Elvis, aired on British radio:
A warning about the poem’s language preceded the airing, as a series of offensive words including “nigger” and “spastic” were employed.
Here in America — where we have Elvis energy, apparently — those 2 words are on completely different levels of offensiveness, but I guess that's the way they talk in Britain, where, presumably, "spastic" is not a word to be used casually.

***

Bonus: "Saturday Night Live" transcript. ("Oh no, its Chaz 'The Spaz' Knerlman!... Why don't you shut up, Spazalopolis!")

Ah, now it's coming back to me. Remember back in 2006, when Tiger Woods got into trouble for casually saying "spaz" in Britain? Language Log had a great post titled "A Brief History of Spaz":
[T]he clumsy or inept meaning of spaz remained mostly on the playground until the late 1970s, when it began seeping into American popular culture. In 1978, Saturday Night Live started running occasional sketches starring "The Nerds," with Bill Murray as Todd DiLamuca and Gilda Radner as Lisa Loopner. On two shows that year (Apr. 22 and Nov. 4), host Steve Martin joined in, playing the character Charles Knerlman, or "Chaz the Spaz" as he was known to Todd and Lisa.... A year after the SNL sketches in 1979, Bill Murray starred in the summer-camp comedy Meatballs, which featured a stereotypically nerdy character played by Jack Blum called "Spaz."

For someone like Tiger Woods who came of age in the '80s (and who, incidentally, is on record as saying that another Bill Murray movie, Caddyshack, is his all-time favorite), the American usage of spaz had long lost any resonance it might have had with the epithet spastic. This is not the case in Great Britain, however, where both spastic and spaz evidently remain in active usage as derogatory terms for people with cerebral palsy or other disabilities affecting motor coordination. A BBC survey ranked spastic as the second-most offensive term for disabled people, just below retard....

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Don't you love the energy of America?

15 comments:

rhhardin said...

Spastic is traditional material for jokes, owing to seeing the machine-gone-wrong aspect of a human being as comedy material.

Now it's insensitive too, which itself ought to be comedy material.

Humor is not safe or tame or respectable.

Chip Ahoy said...

Yet British use the term mong with without a trace of compunction.

ricpic said...

I don't know how Euro-trash like Bono manage it, but they are simultaneously ignorant of and condescending to America.

NKVD said...

That spaz is a retard.

traditionalguy said...

Euro-trash see America as their lost property, but certainly not worthy of the independence from our European betters that we have gotten away with for a while. Why just look at Elvis, and Palin, and Limbaugh. All unworthy of independence. Yet somehow still clinging to their guns and their fundamentalist religion. Will Obama sell them out for the right offer? Stay tuned.

Pogo said...

Bono went full retard Euro-smug long ago.

I quit listening back when he donned his first sunglasses for the stage in the early 90s.

I turn the channel if ever he appears on screen, turn the page if he is quoted, and turn off the radio if anything after Joshua Tree is played (One and Beautiful Day can be pleasant, until I recall who is singing them).

The U2 Tower is emblematic of his emptiness.

Bissage said...

Mr. Boner has absolutely no right to call anyone “spastic.”

I’ve seen him play softball.

He throws like a girl.

Pogo said...

Elvis Costello had a truly spastic performance on SNL that introduced him to America.

His advice would be good for Bono's poetry:
"Spare us the theatrics and the verbal gymnastics."

Forrest Gump did a better explanation of Elvis anyway.

tim maguire said...

Spaz has not lost its connection to spastic, but spaz and spastic are both very mild insults. Endearing as often as not.

The speaker probably directs it at him- or herself far more often than at others.

Chip Ahoy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chip Ahoy said...

I've always been impressed with the amount of talent that pushes up from that little island nation and acknowledge how much of our musical heritage is owed to it. I think pretty much everyone over there imagines themselves potential song writers and musicians.

But then conversely, I'm also impressed with how much U.S. talent and innovation drifts back and impresses them. They're always on about our films, especially, our great artists, and our innovations, jazz, blues, soul, rap to name a few excluding Western which they claim to not understand. Odd that, the simplest of all not understood. Watch some videos of Britain's Got Talent and see how much of U.S. music is emulated when not straight up imitated.

This concludes my music-related U.S./British insight for the day.

〈thread jack〉

But more interesting to me than all that, in this link to entertainment.timesonline.co.uk, is the item on David Tennant and Russel Davies (That is one of my grandmother's maiden name, BTW) leaving Dr Who.

This caused me to read up on the new Dr Who, Matt Smith, a twenty-six year old largely unknown actor, the youngest Dr Who. Whovians are conflicted. Most agree Tennant was the best Dr Who ever. Most are probably too young to appreciate the genius of Tom Baker.

Producers said they were more interested in an actor somewhere around forty years of age but they were a little distressed with all the exceedingly young actors on the short list. But their minds were changed when they became impressed with the unique take Matt Smith brought to the character. The character must come across young and old simultaneously, an impish boff but technologic wizard, somewhat naïve and worldly (actually, other-worldly).

Comments to the change indicate viewers are hoping for a change back to Who as universe traveler and steer away from Who as almighty universe savior. I agree.

〈/thread jack〉

goesh said...

- early on I thought the Brit's use of the word "bleeding" was a bad slight to menstrating women but I quickly learned how snooty they really are, how F'n spastic they can truly be

Beth said...

When my partner, C, was small, she rode a bus to school every day and passed The Louisiana School for Spastic Children. It had a big sign out front.

Down the street from where we live now is a hospice/rehab center. When I was in high school and would walk past it, the sign on the fence read "The New Orleans Home for Incurables." Damn, that was sad!

Beth said...

Much better Elvis tribute, ala "energy of America" mode:

Gillian Welch, Elvis Presley Blues

Bissage said...

(1) Speaking of YouToo (a band with WAY too much affected cool, poseur style for the straight-forward tastes of this little black duck), what kind of a fully grown man goes by the name of the front part of a shovel, anyway?

(2) Chuka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka, chucka . . .