Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun May 23 15:51:23 UTC 2010

At 11:12 AM -0400 5/23/10, Dan Goncharoff wrote:
>I don't understand. Who keeps track of spitting incidents at airports?? If
>no one, does that mean they must not occur, since they are impossible to
>verify decades later?

IIRC, Lembcke claims to have tried to track down such reports by
talking to many veterans and was unable to confirm any.  It is, of
course, difficult to prove such a negative, but it would interesting
to see if anyone complained after the book was published that he was
ignoring any actual instances that took place.  In some cases Lembcke
had heard about specific incidents involving actual soldiers at
actual airports, but they all evaporated on closer investigation, and
none were ever photographed, which is a bit puzzling in itself if
they were as frequent as claimed at the time.  Of course Lembcke had
his own agenda, but that doesn't mean he wasn't right.  (Presumably,
there could also be armies of alligators in the sewers in NYC that
grew from tiny ones flushed down toilets, or an epidemic of people
who wake up in their hotel bathtubs missing one kidney, and we just
haven't been looking in the right sewers and hotel bathrooms.)


>On May 22, 2010 8:39 PM, "Laurence Horn" <laurence.horn at> wrote:
>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender: Americ...
>Poster: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>Subject: Re: Vietnam
>At 2:09 PM -0400 5/22/10, Bill Palmer wrote:
>>OK, pure conjecture here, but I'm wondering if the "po...
>>I say this based purely on personal experience and conversations with
>>colleagues. I served in Vie...
>Actually, I was the one who cited the Lembcke book (unless I missed
>another mention by Mark), but my direct message to ADS last night
>didn't get through (twice); it showed up only in Ron's excerpting it
>along with his response.  I found the book useful when I was
>researching my "Spitten Image" paper (American Speech, 79.1, 2004)
>and it is cited therein (in the section called "Great Expectorations:
>Humiliation, Revenge, and the Salivation Army), along with an earlier
>even uglier parallel in which the "Freikorps" literature after WWI
>blamed leftists, Jews, and women for spitting in the face of,
>stabbing in the back (literally), and otherwise humiliating the noble
>German veterans returning from that war.  This urban legend was one
>of the elements, as detailed by Klaus Theweleit in a masterful 1987
>book, justifying the Nazi takeover.
>Lembcke was looking specifically at the scenario of "hippies"
>spitting in the face of returning Vietnam vets at airports, only his
>research showed that no such accounts could ever be verified, they
>always involved FOAF transmission.
>The American Dialect Society - http://...
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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