Boogie-woogie Tramps.

A passage from LIFE magazine of Sept. 14, 1953, courtesy Futility Closet:

Inspired officials of the East German Communist party, ever diligent in setting standards to which party members may conform, issued a list of the terms which are approved for use in vilifying the West. Henceforth Red speakers will know they are on safe ground if they choose any of the following synonyms for Americans: ‘Monkey killers, lice breeders, mass poisoners, chewing-gum spivs, boogie-woogie tramps, gas-chamber ideologists, leprous heroes, breeders of trichinosis, arsenic mixers, delirious lunatics, exploiters of epidemics.’ For the British a different set of terms must be used: ‘paralytic sycophants, effete betrayers of humanity, carrion-eating servile imitators, arch cowards and collaborators, conceited dandies or playboy soldiers.’

One cannot, of course, count on the scholarly bona fides of LIFE magazine, and for all I know the whole thing was a Cold War invention, but it’s certainly lively reading. Thanks, JC!

Comments

  1. J.W. Brewer says:

    That “spiv” is a markedly BrEng word absent from the AmEng lexicon seems odd, but of course it’s not implausible for Communist bureaucrats to make comical errors. Or is it more likely that the list of approved vituperative terms was promulgated in German and then translated into English by someone (possibly even in the employ of a Western journalist rather than the DDR authorities?) who cluelessly used BrEng rather than AmEng lexemes to translate slurs on the American list?

  2. Has anyone come across a study about the rhetoric used during the Cold War in the press and in Congress to describe the commies on the other side of the Iron Curtain?

  3. Stu Clayton says:

    This particular kind of vilification by name-calling was often practiced by fanatical communists. Even as a child I noticed “running dogs of capitalism” – though I still don’t know what running dogs is supposed to mean. Stray dogs in packs chasing scraps of mobile garbage ? I always think: a dog may run, a cat may look at a king.

    The sheer quantity of the name-calling was remarkable, and also the fact the names were generic, not assigned to individuals. “Pocohontas” and “little rocket man” are merely examples of specific name-calling.

    There’s a high-tone version nowadays used by some fanatical non-communists, involving words like “hegemonic”, “cis”-fill-in-the-blank. Unregenerate patriarchal cis-terns.

    Vilification by generalization is what it is. Only the wordy inventiveness distinguishes it from “cunts”. As Aristotle didn’t say – to assign the genus is to give the reason.

  4. Wikipedia covers “running dog” well:

    Running dog is a literal translation into English of the Chinese pejorative 走狗 (Chinese: zǒu gǒu), meaning lackey or lapdog, an unprincipled person who helps or flatters those more powerful and often evil. It is derived from the tendency of dogs to follow after humans in hopes of receiving food scraps.

    “Lap dog” would be a more idiomatic English equivalent.

    Using “gas-chamber ideologists” is clearly an attempt to tar the West as facist, which was common in Soviet times. For example, the official name of the Berlin Wall was the “Antifaschistischer Schutzwall.” (“Anti-facist protection rampart” was, I believe, the official English translation.)

    My high school German classroom (which had been occupied by Mr. Chapman since the school had opened, decades earlier), had one wall given over to a student-painted mural. The most salient feature of the mural was an image of the Berlin Wall, as it looked from the West Berlin side, complete with graffiti. In huge letters, it said, “DIE MAUER MUSS WEG!” However, I went to high school in the 1990s, and a huge hole had been painted into the wall; “Die Mauer fällt, 1989.”

  5. Cisgender is no more derogatory than heterosexual, and is equally useful.

  6. ‘Running dog’ is the literal translation of the Chinese word meaning ‘lackey’ (in the derogatory, not the neutral, sense).

  7. Stu Clayton says:

    Depends on how the word is used. Among gay men, the term “heterosexual” can be derogatory or intoxicating.

    # Stealth transmen, then, end up looking similar to heterosexual, cisgender men — and different from open transmen. # [Kristen Shilt, Just One of the Guys ?]

  8. Stu Clayton says:

    So “running dog” means a person who runs errands on command, like a dog ordered to run after a stick ?

  9. David Eddyshaw says:

    I like “paralytic sycophant”, and may indeed adopt it as a self-designation.

  10. There’s a high-tone version nowadays used by some fanatical non-communists, involving words like “hegemonic”

    Surely “hegemonic” is used by communists as well, and indeed quite frequently if I remember my exposure to political abuse-flinging correctly. (“Hegemonic imperialism” gets extra points.)

  11. David Eddyshaw says:

    Indeed yes: the word conjures up Gramsci in particular, who meant something quite specific by it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_hegemony

  12. That “spiv” is a markedly BrEng word absent from the AmEng lexicon seems odd

    Not necessarily. The lexicon might not be intended for use to an American audience; if you wanted to insult Americans while talking to Brits, “spiv” would work very well.
    More likely, though, that as you say this is a translation of a list of German insults intended to be used in domestic propaganda. The article has no context; Hat has posted the complete piece. There are some other loose translations in it: the ruling party of the GDR was not the Communist Party but the Socialist Unity Party, for example.

    “Playboy soldiers” sounds rather good. I am confident that, at the very least, the Hussar regiments wouldn’t have minded that at all.

  13. This particular kind of vilification by name-calling was often practiced by fanatical communists.

    China, not a polite nation in general, really went to town on Chris Patten, if I remember: “sinner for a thousand years”, “prostitute”, “tango dancer”, “snake”, “triple violator” and so on.

  14. David Eddyshaw says:

    Looking at Gramsci’s Wikipedia page, I see that his odd surname was ultimately Albanian. Makes him the (honorary) third of the Memorable Albanians, the other two being Mother Teresa (inevitably) and Enver Hoxha (for the spelling.)

    Beats Belgium. There are only two Memorable Belgians, and they are both fictional.

  15. I’ll be damned — the name is from Gramsh, in central Albania. Thanks much for that!

  16. Stu,
    “Depends on how the word is used. Among gay men, the term “heterosexual” can be derogatory or intoxicating. ”

    Actually, no. The derogatory term for that is actually “breeder”, which in turns sounds like a slur the Sierra Club would have thought up.

    And there’s nothing intoxicating about heterosexual men. Straight looking for gay sex are a dime a dozen.

  17. Speaking of Communists, I think it’s a shame that the Wiki page on Peniche makes no mention of this:

    Arrested in 1949, he remained in prison until he made a spectacular escape from the Peniche prison in 1960. This escape had a wide impact. The government of António Salazar claimed that a Soviet submarine was near the Peniche coast waiting for Cunhal.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peniche,_Portugal
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81lvaro_Cunhal

    Could anyone add it?

  18. David Eddyshaw says:

    Idly clicking Wikipedia links (must stop doing that) I discover that Jennifer Aniston is one-eighth Italo-Albanian. I foresee one of those ineffably irritating pub quiz questions:

    What links: Mother Teresa, Antonio Gramsci and Jennifer Aniston?

    Possibly a bit obscure …

  19. J.W. Brewer says:

    Ahem. If one is getting into the diaspora, surely pride of place ought to be given to that great Albanian-American John Belushi, whose father had emigrated to the New World from the impressively-named village of Qytezë. Although I’m thinking maybe Albanian scrabble doesn’t give so much credit for Q’s and Z’s as Anglophone scrabble does?

  20. If one is getting into the diaspora, surely pride of place ought to be given to that great Albanian-American John Belushi

    It certainly should! But now I’m wondering about the origin of the surname Belushi. Wikipedia doesn’t say; anybody know?

  21. Were these insults intended to be directed at Americans and Brits by East Germans? Because I can only image them causing bemusement and hilarity. Arsenic mixers? Breeders of trichinosis?

    Or were they meant to instill distrust of the West strictly among the East Germans? I like to think of an East German father, over breakfast, saying to his children, you must never trust Americans, they mix arsenic and breed trichinosis.

    Not to mention, of course, that your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries.

  22. J.W. Brewer says:

    FWIW, there are several historical strata of distinctly BrEng lexemes in my own lexicon (typically passive lexicon, i.e. I understand them but would feel ridiculous using them in most contexts). The first stratum was acquired in earlier childhood from BrEng children’s books: Paddington, Swallows & Amazons, what have you. I think I probably first encountered “spiv” in the second stratum, which was acquired via listening to the lyrics of British-origin rock songs from the age of 13 forward. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dm7aQ9tW5Vw

  23. Is a flow-on effect purely Australasian?

  24. Breffni says:

    There are only two Memorable Belgians, and they are both fictional

    Although Hergé was Belgian, I’m not sure there’s anything in Tintin that would clearly locate him there.

    Also, I’d like to take offence on Jacques Brel’s behalf.

  25. I admit I had no idea Jacques Brel was Belgian, and I probably won’t remember five minutes from now, so although he is clearly Memorable, I’m not sure he’s a Memorable Belgian.

  26. The same goes for Audrey Hepburn (born Edda van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston in Brussels). Toots Thielemans, on the other hand, qualifies, at least to me.

  27. ktschwarz says:

    @ J.W. Brewer The first stratum was acquired in earlier childhood from BrEng children’s books

    At about age 7 I pulled out one of my mother’s books and was shocked to find “Mr” and “Mrs” without periods after them. I knew that was wrong and I refused to read it! I don’t know what book it was, but I’m afraid I may have deprived myself of The Phoenix and the Carpet. My old shame.

    the second stratum, which was acquired via listening to the lyrics of British-origin rock songs

    Co-signed. “Day tripper”, “brass in pocket”, “caravans that never move from their front gardens” are passive lexicon only.

  28. Belushi’s Albanian Wikipedia page says something about the name being recorded at the time of the family’s immigration as Bellios or Belliors.

  29. David L says:

    Also in the class of famous people not widely known to be Belgian: Georges Simenon

  30. J.W. Brewer says:

    Now “Belliors” looks plausibly like it ought to be a Walloon surname, even if it isn’t …

  31. Breffni says:

    I admit I had no idea Jacques Brel was Belgian, and I probably won’t remember five minutes from now, so although he is clearly Memorable, I’m not sure he’s a Memorable Belgian

    Well, maybe so, but he didn’t exactly hide his Belgian-ness under a bushel, with songs like “Bruxelles”, “Les flamandes”, “Knokke-le Zoute tango”, “Les Flamingants”, even “Le plat pays”. “Marieke” is half in Flemish, there are various references to things like La Grand Place and moules-frites, and I think he adopts a strong Belgian accent in Les bonbons. I’m pretty sure he’s memorably Belgian to a francophone audience.

  32. I’m pretty sure he’s memorably Belgian to a francophone audience.

    Oh, I’m sure he is; I can speak only for myself and my own lamentable ignorance.

  33. >There are only two Memorable Belgians, and they are both fictional.

    If not Leopold, surely Leopold’s Ghost is memorable. In which case, fictionality depends on whether you believe in ghosts.

  34. J.W. Brewer says:

    If random genealogical info googled up on websites of unknown provenance is taken to be reliable, it looks as though Greek nationalists with an irredentist interest in “Northern Epirus” may also have a claim on Belushi: “John’s maternal grandparents were Demetri George Samaras and Anna D. Popa/Papajoseph. Demetri was born in Korçë, now in Albania. Anna was born in Greece or Albania. Demetri and Anna spoke Greek, but it is not clear if they were ethnic Greeks, or if they identified as such. They are usually described in biographical sources on the Belushis as Albanian.” Their daughter Agnes, Belushi’s mother, is said by the same source to have been born in Akron, Ohio (whose name is said by wikipedia to have a Greek etymology but does not derive from Greek immigration but rather by inference from what WASPy land speculators with a smattering of classical learning thought would sound classy circa 1820).

  35. One of the funniest names in history (IMHO) belongs to the otherwise utterly forgettable Belgian politician Annemie Turtelboom.

  36. David Eddyshaw says:

    Leopold is merely notorious, not Memorable.

    I did know about Brel, but was working on the principle that famous Belgians (as opposed to Memorable) are ipso facto French. As with Canadians and Americans.

  37. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’d forgotten about Simenon. QED.
    Belushi, now … 4 – 2 to Albania!

  38. Etienne says:

    1-Among famous Albanians in the diaspora the actress Eliza Dushku surely ought to be mentioned (I am, admittedly, a big fan of Joss Whedon’s).

    2-To this francophone Jacques Brel is undeniably Belgian, but on the basis of the content of some of his songs even francophones could be forgiven for believing him to be French: In his fine song ROSA- (which was discussed five years ago right here at Casa Hat: http://languagehat.com/der-beste-in-latein/

    -he refers to the pupils who will make up “La France de demain”, and when I first heard it I assumed he was French.

  39. I thought Muhammad Ali was the most memorable Albanian.

  40. Belushi’s grandfather was recorded in his US immigration papers as Anastassios Vellousi. In his petition for naturalization his name appears as Anastas Adam Beloushi. His naturalization record gives his family name as “Veloussi (Beloushi) Belliori (Belliouri)”. His WW2 draft card spells his name as “Belouski”, which figures for Chicago.

    Was having a Greek-appearing name a disadvantage at the time?

  41. I only know about Eliza Dushku because her uncommon name once led me to look up her biography. The same goes for Embeth Davidtz.

  42. David Eddyshaw says:

    Talking of Eliza Dushku (and why not?) brings to mind the excellent Enver Gjokaj, effortless winner in the American-actor-with-best-in-yer-face-Albanian-name stakes.

    Middle name: Leif. Only in America …

  43. Etienne says:

    David Eddyshaw: Excellent indeed: On the basis of his performance in DOLLHOUSE, Enver Gjokaj would deserve to be a better-known actor, of any origin/ethnicity/nationality…

  44. In “Astérix chez les Belges” each Belge speaks of “le plat pays qui est le mien”.

    England’s first defeat at FIFA World Cup 2018 came from a goal score by Adnan Januzaj, perhaps the most famous Belgian Albanian.

  45. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Etienne:

    I agree. A performance so good as to be positively eerie at times.

  46. The Phoenix and the Carpet

    My wife missed it too, so I’m reading it out loud to her now, preceded by Five Children and It and to be followed by The Story of the Amulet and the modern sequel Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders. (I’ve never read the last and I’m looking forward to it.) The first three are all available at Project Gutenberg.

  47. There are only two Memorable Belgians, and they are both fictional.

    This is presumably in the same vein as ‘The Swiss haven’t fought a war for centuries, and that’s produced only cuckoo-clocks/stringy cheese/yodelling'(?)

    Off the top of my head (because to look it up wouldn’t make anybody sufficiently memorable)

    Saint-Saens

    Eddie Merxx (racing cyclist, won the Tour de France several times)

    And because I haven’t looked them up, I couldn’t be sure of the spelling.

    Remember Belgium has only been a country since the Napoleonic wars.

  48. Breffni says:

    The IPA and “English pronunciation respellings” on Enver Gjokaj’s WP page give conflicting pronunciations, trochees in the former and iambs in the latter. Anyone know which is correct?

  49. Here’s a list of additional Famous Belgians, some of whom predate Belgium: Charles V, Mercator, Rubens, Sax (of the saxophone), Maeterlinck, Lemaitre, Django Reinhart, Magritte, Diane von Fürstenberg, Stromae. The immense list at Wikipedia, including in its list of fictional characters Dr. Evil.

  50. David Eddyshaw says:

    How could I have omitted Dr Evil? (A worthy adversary for the other Memorable Belgians, it must be said.)

    OK. Albania 4; Belgium, 3.

    The others are famous Belgians, and thus Memorable Frenchmen (even when Flemish.) See on Jacques Brel, above. The umpire’s decision is final.

  51. David Eddyshaw says:

    I unaccountably omitted ex-king Zog.

    5 – 3.

  52. And ex-King Farouk of Egypt. And Gjergj Kastrioti, who held back the Turks.

  53. David Eddyshaw says:

    No, they are famous rather than Memorable. There are far too many famous Albanians to remember. Belgians, too, I dare say.

    It occurs to me that I should perhaps explain my technical terminology for the benefit of those who are neither cis-Atlantic nor cis-Manchic:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1066_and_All_That

  54. In the infamously rather racist (and thus infrequently reprinted, at the author’s own request) Tintin in the Congo, Tintin was shown teaching the inhabitants of the Belgian Congo about their Belgian “motherland.” It was only the third Tintin book Herge did, and when it was reprinted in color, he redrew the panel to make it somewhat less offensive (before he ultimately decide that the Tintin in the Congo was too flawed to be fixed by such minor touch-ups).

    Moreover, a character inspired by King Zog actually showed up in the Tintin series: King Muskar XII of Syldavia.

    On the other hand, King Farouk was far more French than he was Albanian. His great-great-grandfather, Muhammad Ali Pasha, appears to be the only source of Albanian ancestry in his family tree.

  55. marie-lucie says:

    JC: Famous Belgians, some of whom predate Belgium: Charles V, …

    What makes Charles V Belgian (more particularly Flemish ?) rather than Austrian, Spanish, etc?

  56. David Eddyshaw says:

    The updated version of the panels from Tintin au Congo that Brett links to is actually worse than the original in terms of offensiveness, I’d say. The original is at least a little reminiscent of the French colonial idea (at its best) that genetics has nothing to do with Frenchness, so there is nothing problematic or paradoxical about the idea that one might be a black Frenchman; the update implies that school-age Africans might be unable to add two and two. Hergé was right: it’s not really redeemable. Credit to him for seeing it.

    Milou does not come out well of these strips … I have to say he shows stereotypical fox terrier attitudes.

  57. What makes Charles V Belgian (more particularly Flemish ?) rather than Austrian, Spanish, etc?

    He was born in Ghent, which was and is in Flanders.

  58. Salvatore Adamo, Tombe La Niege

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCyUST1vGU4

  59. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    He was born in Ghent, which was and is in Flanders.

    Does that make John of Gaunt a Memorable Belgian, then?

  60. since the Napoleonic wars
    Actually, even later – Belgium seceded from the Netherlands in 1830, when Nappy was already dead for almost a decade.
    le plat pays qui est le mien
    I always planned to finally read Asterix in French. I really have to get around to that now.

  61. Trond Engen says:

    Hergé was not alone. French B.D. was and still is Belgian to a large degree. From the top of my head and in rough chronological order there’s Franquin (Spirou et Fantasio, Gaston Lagaffe), Morris (Lucky Luke), Peyo (the Smurfs), van Hamme (e.g. Thorgal), Hermann (e.g. Jeremiah), Schuiten (les Cités Obscures), Yslaire (Sambre). Also several of the publishers were Belgian.

  62. Lars (the original one) says:

    Merxx — that’s Baron Merckxs here at the Hattery.

  63. Rodger C says:

    John Belushi definitely spoke Greek–remember the “chizzboiga” sketches; the question might be whether he spoke Albanian.

  64. Rodger C says:

    And Belgium may only have been Belgium since 1830, but as a distinct piece of territory it dates back to the 15th century as the Burgundian Netherlands.

  65. David Eddyshaw says:

    Albania has only been Albania since 1912, come to that.

  66. From Dovlatov’s Affiliate: editor on Radio Freedom instructs him (protagonists, but as usual close to the author) how not to write

    “Don’t write that Moscow is feverishly brandishes their weapons. That Kremlin gerontocrats keep their sclerotic finger…”
    I interrupted him: “… on the trigger of war?”
    “How do you know?”
    “I was writing it for ten years in Soviet newspapers”
    “About Kremlin gerontocrats?”
    “No, about Pentagon hawks”

  67. David Marjanović says:

    Memorable Belgians: how about Louis Dollo?

    Memorable wannabe Albanians: this guy, who tried to become king there.

    Merxx

    Merckx. That kind of spelling forms a pattern with Hendrickx and, on the other side of the border, the abovementioned Davidtz. Shame that Richarz makes do without a t.

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