Most Notable Quotations of 2010

geoffrey nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Tue Nov 23 06:58:06 UTC 2010

As it happens, Wilson, I was thinking of the Obama remark only as an example of an "accidental" --i.e., as something not composed to be memorable (though on reflection maybe it was). But I also talked about utterances that "seemed to betray" such-and-such, to leave it open as to whether the imputation was justified -- whether, e.g.,Tony Hayward or LeBron was in fact getting a bad rap -- since it was the interpretation of the remark left that gave it its currency. And by that standard the Obama remark qualified. It got very wide circulation on the right, where people made it conform to their narratives of  Obama's arrogance, weakness, cowardice, posturing, lack of class, ghetto style -- even homosexuality (see below).  And when you think about it, that discussion wouldn't have been nearly so public before the days of the internet and cable news.

As for that conversation, no I don't recall it and don't see how it could have as you describe it (the last time we had a "colored housekeeper," I was still taking bar mitzvah lessons). But why don't we take that offline.


Obama is embarrassing. He is Learning whose ASS to KICK...Is he POTUS? Wow.. what a completely arrogant fucktard. .

Barack is mad, ok. He is truly furious that real life tragedy is interfering with his plans to transform America to the new world order where he would name himself king.

"Smoke 'em out" = Silly posturing. "Ass to kick" = Tough leadership or something. Clenched jaw. Perfectly creased pant leg. Ooh... David Brooks must be positively swooning by now.

I can't get past the whole downlow aspect of Present Obama and "ass". Not that there is anything wrong with that. I just don't understand gay sex and kicking the object of your lust.

This pathetic man-child is just spouting off again. He is all talk, and talk is cheap. This clown is clueless. He is a coward.

Not only is he incompetent, and has to get his lesson from Keith Olberman to get mad, he shows he has zero class!

He's pure GHETTO!!! His ebonics have always driven me crazy.;..droppin' his 'g's', etc., but now he's out of the closet. Ghetto boy!

> From: Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Date: November 22, 2010 8:13:26 PM PST
> Subject: Re: Most Notable Quotations of 2010
> On Mon, Nov 22, 2010 at 10:37 PM, Geoffrey Nunberg
> <nunberg at> wrote:
>> [T]hey're remarks that seem to inadvertently betray the arrogance or
>> ignorance of the speaker (you could add Palin's "refudiate," Obama's
>> "whose ass to kick," etc.).
> Obama said,
> "We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best
> answers, so I know whose ass to kick."
> What does that display, arrogance or ignorance?
> I admit that the fact that I have to ask this question reveals my own
> ignorance. But, given that the colored are known both for their
> arrogance *and* their ignorance, what can I tell you? I really need to
> have your statement explained to me. And please don't use your colored
> housekeeper as a reference, this time. Very likely, you've completely
> forgotten that you had a conversation with me in which you made
> reference to your housekeeper in order to refute a claim of mine WRT
> BE, given that it took place over a quarter-century ago.
> Clearly, I have not forgotten.
> --
> -Wilson
> –––
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
> come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> –Mark Twain
> Once we recognize that we do not err out of laziness, stupidity,
> or evil intent, we can uncumber ourselves of the impossible burden of
> trying to be permanently right. We can take seriously the proposition
> that we could be in error, without necessarily deeming ourselves
> idiotic or unworthy.
> –Kathryn Schulz

The American Dialect Society -

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