Guido x 2

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Jan 23 19:20:29 UTC 2010

In today's Times, there is a piece by Patricia Cohen in the Arts
section about "Guido" (the ethnic/social label) and "Jersey Shore"
(the MTV reality television show that, as Virginia Heffernan (see
below) puts it, chronicles the exploits of "the hottest, tannest,
craziest Guidos" in Seaside Heights, N.J.  Reclamation may or may not
be involved, depending on your source...

As New York State Senator Diane J. Savino, a Democrat who represents
Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, explained, "Guido was never a
pejorative." It grew out of the 1950s greaser look, she said, and
became a way for Italian-Americans who did not fit the larger
culture's definition of beauty to take pride in their own heritage
and define "cool" for themselves.

When she was growing up, everybody listened to rock; girls were
supposed to be skinny, with straight blond hair (like Marcia Brady on
"The Brady Bunch"); guys had ripped jeans, sneakers and straggly hair.

Then in 1977 "Saturday Night Fever" was released. "It changed the
image for all of us," Ms. Savino said. As Tony Manero, John Travolta
wore a white suit, had slicked-back short hair, liked disco music and
was hot. "It was a way we could develop our own standard of beauty,"
she added.

Indeed, Professor Tricarico calls "Saturday Night Fever" the "origin
myth" for "Guidos." Think of Tony Manero as their Adam.

Young Italian-Americans, he said, did what other immigrant groups
before have done: take a symbol of derision, own it and redefine it
their own way. Young African-Americans did that with the "n word," he
added, much to the consternation of their elders, and gay people did
the same by proudly using the word "queer."

Then in the Magazine section coming out tomorrow, Virginia Heffernan
has this more dialectologically oriented mini-essay--it's not every
day the Times begins an article by citing Bill Labov:


The American Dialect Society -

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