Barry Popik in Safire Column

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Mon Dec 16 03:11:24 UTC 2002

   Larry Horn asks if Barry or I found any evidence of "GOP" rhyming with
"top" outside of the Cole Porter song.  The answer for our article is
no, although I'll let Barry comment on whether he's found it anywhere

    I wouldn't expect it though. Cole Porter's "GOP" (rhymes with "top")
arises from great exuberance, permitting Reno to pronounce "Gop" as
if it is a word that Billy has just spelled (gee-oh-pee). This is
nonsense arising from (and justified by) great exuberance.

    For lexical creativity deriving from exuberance, cf. Schiller's Ode to Joy,
which begins with "Joy, divine spark of the gods," and two lines down says
"Wir betreten feuertrunken/Himmlische dein Heiligtum." (literally:
"We enter drunk with fire/Oh heavenly one your sanctuary.")

     What interests me is feuertrunken ("drunk with fire").  Evidently
this is a mixed metaphor.  Joy has just been described as a spark.
Drinking and joy are usually connected with wine. Usually the mixing
of metaphors is a flaw to be avoided, but in this case it's
justified. The Ode to Joy is one happy poem!
Schiller seems to be saying: "Yes, I know I'm mixing metaphors, but
I'm in such an exuberant, exultant mood, I don't care; if joy is a
spark, let's get drunk on sparks."

     Btw, Beethoven took just the beginning of the poem for his Ninth Symphony.

Gerald Cohen

>From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: Barry Popik in Safire Column
>At 1:18 PM -0600 12/15/02, Gerald Cohen wrote:
>>   I'm delighted to see mention of Barry Popik in today's "On
>>Language" column by William Safire; the recognition is indeed
>>    For those who might be interested in pursuing the early history of
>>"G.O.P." further, here's the bibliographical reference which Mr.
>>Safire consulted:
>>Barry Popik and Gerald Cohen; "Pushing the Date of G.O.P. (Grand Old
>>Party) Back By One Year,To 1883)." in: _Studies in Slang, Part VI_
>>(edited by Gerald Leonard Cohen and Barry Popik), Frankfurt a.M.:
>>Peter Lang, 1999, pp.63-71.
>>    The earliest (Dec. 1, 1883) attestation of G.O.P. was located by Barry.
>>Gerald Cohen
>Any evidence of "GOP" rhyming with "top" outside of the Cole Porter
>song?  (Not that we'd necessarily be able to tell.)

>From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>Subject:      Tomorrow's Safire "On Language" column
>Comments: To: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
>Nice to see the credit for Barry.   I did notice one typo (or, if you
>prefer, type-o) just afterward, a missing comma ("Barry Popik, an
>etymologist has found..."), but (slightly) more substantively,
>there's a bit of an overstatement earlier in the column.  Safire
>draws the useful distinction between true acronyms and initialisms,
>but overstates the case in describing the lead player of his column,
>"G.O.P./GOP", as 'universally pronounced gee-oh-pee--by its
>initials--and never as the word "gop", rhyming with "cop".'  This
>claim immediately brought to mind Cole Porter's "You're the Top",
>from _Anything Goes_, which I just confirmed includes the following
>You're a boom,
>You're the dam at Boulder,
>You're the moon,
>Over Mae West's shoulder,
>I'm the nominee of the G.O.P.
>Or GOP!
>But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
>You're the top!
>So on at least this one occasion, albeit with poetic license, "GOP"
>does indeed rhyme with "top", if not with "cop".

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