Recombinant idioms

There was a good Frank Rich opinion piece in the New York Times a week ago on Sarah Palin.

But the reason I'm mentioning it here is not the topic or the quality but the clever reworkings of well-known phrases.

Which I'm now going to pick apart and over-explain, thereby killing their humor value, just 'cause I think they're particularly clever.


  • The column's title, repeated in the body of the column: "The Pit Bull in the China Shop." Palin having referred to herself (essentially) as a pit bull, plus the idiom "bull in a china shop."
  • "she will not stay in Wasilla now that she's seen 30 Rock": updating the old song lyric "How you gonna keep them down on the farm now that they've seen Paree?" with Palin's hometown and with the GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza—which in turn is both (a) synecdoche for New York, the entertainment industry, and the national spotlight, and (b) a sly reference to Tina Fey, who played Palin on SNL and stars in the TV show 30 Rock.
  • The third recombinant idiom that caught my attention isn't by Rich; it's a quote from a Matthew Continetti article about Palin: "You shall not crucify mankind upon the cross of Goldman Sachs," mixing the classic William Jennings Bryan "Cross of Gold speech" with today's financial travails.

One Response to “Recombinant idioms”

  1. Eric

    I just discovered your blog & love your linguistic insights. I have lists of words I’ve redefined, needed words that are missing from the lexicon, new words, and other silly stuff that you might be interested in over on my blog.

    Keep up the fun lingual analysis!

    – Eric


Join the Conversation