"We ARE x !"

Neal Whitman nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET
Wed Nov 16 22:31:59 UTC 2011

I've wondered about this very frame. It crystallized for me when I heard the "This American Life" episode on PSU (better known for introducing the rest of the US to "fracket", and also interesting to me for one interviewee's use of "ranch" to mean "ranch dressing" in a context that doesn't consist of a lust of dressings. But I digress.

Here in Ohio, the group advocating against (if that makes sense) the anti-union bill called itself "We Are Ohio". Local high schools when rallying its sports fans will use the PSU-like "We are X." They'll also put it on bumper stickers, etc. to advocate for tax levies: "We are Raiders", etc. It's as if simply identifying yourself as some group or entity is supposed to induce the hearer to accommodate into the common ground that said group or entity is awesomely powerful.

I've considered searching the usual corpora for this phrase template, but "we are" is so common anyway that I've never tried.

Neal Whitman
Home: 614 501-1890
Cell: 614 260-1622

On Nov 16, 2011, at 4:30 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "We ARE x !"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Cf. also the 2006 movie "We Are Marshall," based on a similar rallying
> cry used by Marshall University's Thundering Herd.
> On Wed, Nov 16, 2011 at 4:04 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> News reports over the past several days have occasionally included
>> Penn State students both defending and deploring legendary coach Joe
>> Paterno as well as offering gestures of goodwill to the alleged
>> victims of Jerry Sandusky.
>> The sudents can be heard chanting or emphatically asserting as
>> individuals, "We ARE Penn State!"  I'm not sure what that's supposed
>> to mean beyond, "Harken to us!"
>> A few years ago, "We ARE Virginia Tech!" was the refrain of an alleged
>> poem by Nikki Giovanni, written in the wake of an even worse
>> situation. It seemed to mean, "We of VT are strong enough to get
>> through absolutely anything unfazed."
>> Both of these usages seemed familiar, but how?
>> In another one of those epiphanous moments, I suddenly recalled that
>> 1976 film _Taxi Driver_ ("You talkin' to  me? You talkin' to *me*?
>> Well, you must be talkin' to me, 'cause I'm the only one here!")
>> featured a slick political candidate, target of the insane Travis
>> Bickel, who was running on the slogan "We ARE the People!"   (Cf. "We
>> ARE the 99%!" )
>> The irony seemed to be that the slogan in the film was utterly vapid.
>> It reminded me of the equally inane, but seriously intended, "Nixon's
>> the One!" of 1968.
>> Moral: yesterday's inanity, today's inspiration.
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