yoda as a generic

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 4 20:57:18 UTC 2010

That about says it for me, Victor. But better.

Famous English joke postcard:
HE: Do you like Kipling?
SHE: I don't know, you naughty boy, I've never kippled.

Works for Quisling too.


On Tue, May 4, 2010 at 4:43 PM, victor steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       victor steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: yoda as a generic
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> There is actually a reason I included a number of citations and
> suggested there are more--they are not all of a kind. In fact, I
> explicitly stated that there are different degrees of genericization.
> And I don't buy capitalization or lack thereof as a compelling
> argument--witness the appearance of "google" as a verb both in
> capitalized and non-capitalized form. Trademark law will tell you that
> verbing is a sure sign of genericization, but it says little of
> capitalization. The reason why some people use capitalized versions
> and others don't relies more on self-prescriptiveness than on the
> degree of genericization. The reason you see yoda and Yoda, google and
> Google side by side is because some people just use it in the generic
> sense, while others use it in the generic sense while respecting the
> fact that it was derived from a proper name. The reason why no one
> uses Dumpster today is because no one today knows that it was once a
> trademark, not because it has become so generic that there is no
> reason to capitalize it. The same is true of quisling. (And how many
> people would think that quisling is just some set of characters from
> Harry Potter?)
> If I were a structuralist, I would identify stages of genericization.
> For example:
> Stage I. Tribute. Example: What would Yoda say?
> Stage IA. Emblem: What would a Yoda say?
> Stage II. Acquisition: He is my Yoda. Everyone has a Yoda in his life.
> Stage III. Categorization. He is the Yoda of stage productions.
> Stage IIIA. Subjectification. He is the productivity yoda.
> Stage IV. Verbing. When they are ready, you will yoda them in the
> skill of verbing.
> Now, don't quibble with specifics of each stage--I am using this as a
> back-of-the-envelope example of what CAN be done, not what OUGHT to be
> done. But even in this rough analysis, I would say that the distance
> between similarly numbered stages (I and IA, III and IIIA) is less
> than between dissimilarly numbered stages (I and II, II and III). And,
> clearly, "yoda" has not been used as a verb except in Hebrew.
> An alternative set might be:
> O. This is Yahoo's answer to Google.
> I. This is Yahoo's Google.
> II. This is Yahoo Google.
> III. This is Yahoo google.
> IV. I will google it on Yahoo.
> But there are things you can say about all these that will help to
> identify why this is a genericization process and not some random
> acquisition of a prototypical example (like, say, Einstein or Benedict
> Arnold). But there are also morphological features that may interfere
> with the formation--I doubt "quisling" will ever be used as a verb
> because of -ing (although someone may well come up with the verb "to
> quisle"). And Benedict Arnold will never become fully genericized
> because it's too unwieldy and there are too many other Benedicts and
> Arnolds to split it up.
> Now, the question is, do dozens of "the yoda of" hits signify
> something different from "the Sinatra of", "the Hamlet of", "the Bill
> Clinton of"? Well, do we really have a similar number of hits for each
> of these? Bill Clinton gets a lot of attention. It should not be too
> surprising to find "the Bill Clinton of" to be quite
> common--"Torricelli has become the Bill Clinton of New Jersey."
> (Bergen County Record, August 21, 2002); "He was dubbed by some the
> 'Bill Clinton of Boalt Hall.' One source at the law school who
> declined to be identified said that 'a lot of women are attracted to
> him.' " (LATimes, December 9, 2002); "Nelly even refers to the
> brouhaha on 'Nellyville,' declaring himself 'the Bill Clinton of the
> Lou.' " (NYDN, June 23, 2002); "Jefferson in Paris (1995) - Our third
> president comes off as the Bill Clinton of his time in this
> speculative fiction about Jefferson." (St Petersburg Times, April 24,
> 2003). But this is only half the news hits--the other half are of "the
> Bill Clinton of 1992" sort. Note that all these have different
> meanings and rely on different aspects of "Bill Clinton" personality.
> Not only is the multifaceted image of Bill Clinton still fresh (the
> man is still alive, after all), but there is also the same problem as
> with Benedict Arnold--a problem that Yoda does not have.
> Hamlet, on the other hand, should be a lot more like Yoda. That is, it
> would be a lot more like Yoda if usage was similar. But what we have
> is quite different:
> "Norman is the 'Hamlet' of horror roles," Perkins said. "You can never
> quite get enough of playing Norman Bates. He's always interesting."
> (Virginian-Pilot, Nov 10, 1990)
> Mr Shultz said last year that America could not become "the Hamlet of
> nations, worrying endlessly whether and when to respond". (Spokane
> Chronicle, Oct 29, 1984) (The Sydney Morning Herald, Jun 19, 1985)
> ... the Hamlet who tosses off "To be or not to be" yet another; the
> Hamlet of the overwrought confrontation with his mother yet a third.
> ... (Philadelphia Inquirer, May 3, 1995)
> Mostly that's because of Mr. Dillane, the Hamlet of one's dreams. The
> classical reading of the part - epitomized by Mr. Gielgud, in fact -
> emphasized the ... (Dallas Morning News, Nov 27, 1994)
> The last two actually point to the reason why we may never have the
> Hamlet equivalent of Yoda--the acting reference of "the Hamlet of
> [Actor X]" is still dominant. Plus there is another reason--"hamlet"
> has another meaning already and that particular gloss is often used in
> the context of "the hamlet of [village/neighborhood X]".
> So in both cases, there are reasons for blocking full genericization.
> What about Sinatra?
> The most interesting one I found was
> Who is the Sinatra of the 1980s? Michael Jackson? Boy George? Weird Al
> Yankovic? No, it's none of the above. Frank Sinatra is still the
> Sinatra of the '80s. (Morning Call, Apr 21, 1984)
> Shockingly, it's not the only example:
> Was he the Sinatra of 30 or 40 years ago? Of course not. No more than
> the Miles Davis of 1985 was the Miles Davis of 1955. (Los Angeles
> Times, Sep 14, 1993)
> This is interesting because there are actually two different meanings
> of the same phrase combined in a single passage. And one is blocking
> the other from genericization. But there is a third.
> THAT, in Tin Pan Alley jabberT wocky, explains the sensational rise to
> fame of Bobby Permane, the Sinatra of the Saddle. (Milwaukee Sentinel,
> May 21, 1944)
> He's been called the “Sinatra of the East” and “the golden voice of
> Prague.” (RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty - Jun 11, 2009)
> Jay-Z, 38, has called himself "the Sinatra of my day" in his lyrics;
> Ne-Yo, 25, is a "big fan." (USA Today, May 11, 2008)
> Steve Bagarus is the Sinatra of the grid iron, a Sinatra with muscles.
> ... "Sinatra of the grid iron?" he chuckled. "Ain't that something?
> I'll have to take a lot of kidding about that but I don't mind."
> (Milwaukee Journal, Nov 20, 1945)
> As for his arrogance, the tall, tattooed Mr. Anselmo is the Sinatra of
> metal: a figure locked in a continuing private movie about his moods,
> ... (New York Times - May 24, 2003)
> (Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 6, 1992)
> [Simon Taylor: Sinatra of Scottish rugby hopes his latest return is a
> happy one] It is not the first time that the two-times British and
> Irish Lion has been on the comeback trail. The terrain has become
> almost as familiar to him as it has to the Sinatra of the England team
> he faces today. (Independent - Mar 8, 2008)
> Again, the comparison is closer to Bill Clinton (an actual person, not
> a literary character; multiple personality traits are being used for
> comparison, etc.) than it is to Yoda. Yoda is not particularly
> multidimentional. When someone says, "he's the Yoda of ...", everyone
> is likely to know that the reference is to a guru who has a concise
> yet puzzling expression for everything. If "Yoda" was replaced with
> "guru" nothing in the reference would be lost. What would the
> equivalent replacement be in the Bill Clinton, Hamlet and Sinatra
> quotes?
> "regular Yoda" vs. "a quisling"
> Is "he's a regular Einstein" similar to "he's a regular Yoda"? Sure.
> And if I said, "he's a regular quisling", someone is likely to ask,
> "Who is Quisling?" That particular juxtaposition is not fair. The
> sentence itself implies that there is a singular Yoda. This is not how
> Yoda is being used under other circumstances, including, of course,
> the original post that prompted this thread. Instead, the question
> should be more direct--"He's a yoda" vs. "He's a quisling". And I
> would dare anyone to tell the difference between the two!
> Still think I am making this up?
> The therapist is a Yoda, a kind of trumped-up wisdom-delivery system.
> (New York Times - May 19, 2006)
> VS-)
> On Tue, May 4, 2010 at 1:46 PM,  <ronbutters at aol.com> wrote:
> >
>  > Of course there a dozens. This is a commonplace, run-of-the-mill figure
> of speech. How many would you find for "Sinatra" or "Hamlet" or "Bill
> Clinton"?
> > Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> > Date:         Tue, 4 May 2010 12:38:51
> > Subject:      Re: [ADS-L] yoda as a generic
> >
> > The earliest use of "a yoda" that I found was very close to the release
> > of Empire Strikes Back. Once the search is limited to "the yoda of",
> > there is a few hits in the 1980s (starting in 1983), then rapidly rising
> > through the 1990s. Joe Torre referred to David Wells as "the Yoda of the
> > staff" back in 1998, in 1999 the NYT has Don Zimmer pegged as "the Yoda
> > of bench coaches", etc. In general, the metaphor appears to be quite
> > common among sports writers.
> >
> > You can even get a whole string:
> >
> > Pay-Per-View - Hartford Courant - ProQuest Archiver - Oct 4, 1996
> >> Meet the Zen master of slapstick, the Yoda of yucks, the great and
> >> mighty Oz of the classic tradition of commedia dell'arte.
> >
> > There are literally dozens of these between 1990 and 2010. But I want to
> > start in order.
> >
> > The pony in the washing machine
> > Pay-Per-View - Chicago Tribune - ProQuest Archiver - Dec 17, 1981
> > ...Goodness knows what a Yoda or a Princess Leia would do to the spin
> > cycle. ...
> >
> > There might be earlier references of this kind, but that's the one I
> > found. It somewhat genericized "Yoda", but not quite in the sense you
> > are asking about--it's more like "Rumsfeld" in "Every administration has
> > a Rumsfeld". It does not refer to the specific Yoda of Star Wars, but
> > it's a similar Yoda nonetheless, someone Yoda-like. Generic, but not
> > specifically a generic guru.
> >
> > It took another two years for Yoda to show up in the sense you're
> > looking for:
> >
> > The Palm Beach Post - May 24, 1983
> > Marcum Leaves Lake Worth a Diamond Legacy. By Steve Hummer. p. 22/1
> >> "You have to be awfully lucky, or things don't work out like that."
> >> says Marcum, the Yoda of Palm Beach County baseball.
> >
> > This is the earliest appearance in GNA. It's clearly the expression
> > that's been used enough to make it into a local, not widely read
> > newspaper, but I found no other record for it. As far as antedating is
> > concerned, this is it, but I have a few more random notes below.
> >
> >  From the point of idle curiosity, this may be interesting.
> >
> >> From the summit of the Gap the party proceeded down the north face of
> >> the range to the Yoda, a tributary of the Mambare. The stream was
> >> crossed, but a retreat soon became necessary owing to the threatening
> >> attitude of the natives, whose attach had finally to be repelled by
> >> force. The Yoda bed was about 150 yards wide, but the river itself
> >> only 20 yards, and knee-deep. A definite conclusion as to the best
> >> route for a future road was prevented by the mountainous nature of the
> >> country, but the Gap itself seemed hardly capable of being traversed
> >> by pack-animals. From the Yoda to Tamaba station, on the Mambare, a
> >> good track could probably be found. The report on gold-mining does not
> >> show that any great results have been attained.
> >
> > When I first saw the hit, I thought it was an OCR error--for example, GB
> > renders "Mambare" as "Mambaie". But, no, the Yoda is a river in "British
> > New Guinea".
> >
> > http://books.google.com/books?id=R99OAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA107
> > The Geographical Journal. July 1900. p. 107
> >
> > There an immediately attache "Yoda Valley" as well. And another Yoda
> > River in Japan... Somehow, I don't expect a connection between Lucas and
> > the Yoda Valley or Yoda River. But I would not exclude the possibility
> > that Lucas used the name of a Japanese scientist. There is a
> > "self-thinning rule" in forestry that is named after the lead author of
> > a 1963 paper--the Yoda rule. I have a tertiary reference that identifies
> > "Harper (1977)" as the coinage, but the bibliography is not included in
> > the GB copy, so I can't identify the actual paper.
> >
> > http://books.google.com/books?id=7a68iGQ-AtUC&pg=PA176
> > Advances in Ecological Research. Vol. 14. 1984. p. 176
> >
> > There are a number of Japanese scientists in different fields who are
> > named Yoda (at least one is A. Yoda). But back to the real Yodas...
> >
> > http://books.google.com/books?id=vSsEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA100
> > Texas Monthly. January 1982
> > The Saint of Falfurrias. By Dick J/ Reavis. p. 100/1
> >> Pedro Jaramillo, a thin, bearded man with the omniscient stare of a
> >> Yoda or Meher Baba, died at Falfurrias in 1907. He was 77.
> >
> > Again, this is the already mentioned semi-generic sense--a Yoda who is
> > not a Yoda, but is Yoda like. Not a guru.
> >
> > InfoWorld. August 9, 1982.
> > Apple Prices Falling; Apples by Any Other Name Even Cheaper. Inside
> > Track column by John C. Dvorak.
> >> Another industry gossip recently told me that the real cheap Apple is
> >> still being developed. It was originally called the Annie, then the
> >> VLC (very low cost) and is now called the Yoda.
> >
> > Another intermediate stage is "Yoda-like", which is well attested. There
> > is also "becoming a Yoda".
> >
> > VLSI Design. Volume 4. 1983
> > A "Yoda" in the Making for Wafer-Scale Integration. p. 13
> > p. 82
> >> ... where you won't commit to anything you're not going to do, and
> >> will do everything you commit to, you've got it made. "It's kind of
> >> like becoming a Yoda...
> >
> > Only the preview is available in GB--the snippet adds no extra info.
> >
> > VS-)
> >
> >
> > On 5/4/2010 10:18 AM, Amy West wrote:
> >> (I did a quick search of the since-1999 ADS-L archive and the
> >> before-April-2008 Language Log archive before posting this: I
> >> apologize if I missed something.)
> >>
> >> I spotted this use of "yoda" as generic -- equivalent to "guru" -- in
> >> the Boston Globe yesterday:
> >>
> >> I am drawn to Prohibition, as I am to all catastrophes, so I turn to
> >> Prohibition yoda Dan Okrent for enlightenment. Okrent is author of
> >> the forthcoming book "The Last Call: the Rise and Fall of
> >> Prohibition."
> >>
> >> --Sam Allis, Boston Globe, May 3, 2010, p. 23, G section
> >>
> >>
> http://www.boston.com/ae/events/articles/2010/05/03/remembering_the_dark_days_during_the_nations_dry_times/
> >>
> >> ---Amy West
> >>
> >> ------------------------------------------------------------
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> >>
> >>
> >
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