Sunday, March 6, 2022

Dick move.

Did the mayor channel her inner Jeff Spicoli?

   Did Mayor Lori Lightfoot really say, "You dicks! What the fuck were you thinking?" on a Zoom conference call regarding one of the city's controversial Columbus statues? Followed up with the even more astounding, if true, "You are out there measuring your dicks with the Italians seeing who's got the biggest dick...I am trying to keep Chicago Police officers from being shot and you are trying to get them shot. My dick is bigger than yours and the Italians, I have the biggest dick in Chicago.”
     Ahem. Let's consider the evidence.
     The claim surfaces in a lawsuit filed Wednesday by former Chicago Park District deputy general counsel George Smyrniotis. Which in itself means nothing. Anyone can sue anybody claiming anything. Though the charges are plausible enough that
the Sun-Times reported them, in dashed form. 
     The natural assumption is that, were the allegations purely fictional, their creators wouldn't have conjured them up then placed on a conference call involving numerous real people who could either confirm or deny the claims. 
     Until those people are able to do that, we are left to conjecture; belief that Lightfoot actually said this certainly does not require a radical shift in the perception of the mayor as a thin-skinned, foul-mouthed bully who frequently browbeats opponents and underlings. That's Lightfoot's brand. 
      Funny that the paper would dash "dick," one of those sometimes risque, sometimes not words, like "cock," which EGD explored in 2015, neither among the seven dirty words that can't be said on television. More of what I consider "The N-Word Effect," trying to pretty up reality for the 1 percent who claim not to be able to stand it. Before long our news stories will be a Mad Libs maze of dashes and redactions: "——!" said [a political figure]. "Why don't you —- —— your—-?"
     "Dick" is not a common slur, but one of those words hardly heard outside of teen movie comedies. I'm wondering if it's a cultural thing. Lightfoot was born in 1962, two years after me, and grew up in Massillon, Ohio, 50 miles southeast of where I grew up in Berea. So we can be considered roughly equals, in our linguistic milieu. "Dick," as an insult, strikes me as having a certain juvenile, 1970s quality, certainly less current than "asshole" which in my mind came to replace it among adults. Her "You dicks!" ejaculation is a near quote from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," 40 years earlier, and it is odd to see the mayor of Chicago channeling Jeff Spicoli. 
      It's also interesting that Lightfoot would use it in both its metaphorical ("You dicks") and literal ("I've got the biggest....") senses in the same rant.  I can't recall ever using it in its literal sense, but this is an area given to euphemism.
     So how long has, umm, dick been around? Long a generic term for a man ("Every Tom, Dick and Harry...") it's tough to tell how long it has been used to describe jerks and anatomy.  My trusty Wentworth and Flexner Dictionary of American Slang drops the ball, dick-wise, focusing on the word as a synonym for detective, with citations, and only at the end of the entry flopping out "[taboo] The penis. Colloq."
Patridge's 1961 "A Dictionary of Slang 
and Unconventional English" traces
the penis definition of "dick" to 1860s 
military slang (thanks to Tony Galati)
The Oxford English Dictionary, surprisingly, picks it up, not in my full set, but in the Supplement, labeling it "coarse slang" and tracing the word in print only to 1891, including, among its citations, Henry Miller's 1934 Tropic of Cancer, "That circumcised dick of his."
      What it doesn't have is Lightfoot's first meaning, as a synonym for "idiot."  Here Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang traces it only to 1966, to Norman Bogner’s novel, Seventh Avenue: “He’s a dick. I don’t know from respect, except for my parents.”
    The mayor issued one of her trademark non-denial denials.
   “I am deeply offended by the ridiculous and outrageous allegations in that lawsuit," she told WBBM, going on to call the lawsuit "without merit" which is not quite the same as "I didn't say those words."
       Though even if she did say it, baldly denying things that make her look bad and are later found to be nevertheless true is another one of her go-to moves. To me, the more damaging statement was "Where did you go to law school?" which is almost as bad as "Don't you know who I am?" (Lightfoot graduated from University of Chicago Law School, whose prestige is in inverse proportion to the number of graduates you know personally).
     She doesn't have much reputation left to lose at this point, though it'll be interesting to see how much this sticks with Lightfoot.  Sexual metaphors applied to oneself tend to echo for a long time — I would imagine that those who know anything about disgraced former Cook County Commissioner William Beavers know he once described himself as the "hog with the big nuts." Hard to get that one out of your head.
      This episode had one unexpected effect: it might have pushed me beyond the typical head-scratching puzzlement and bedrock scorn that most observers have increasingly felt for Lightfoot over the past year into a kind of pity. She's so bad at this. It makes a kind heart want to start rooting for her, a little bit. Almost.


  1. She is hopelessly thin skinned to be in politics!
    On top of that, she isn't a manager & that's what a mayor needs to be.
    What she has become, is one of the finest examples of the Peter Principle in action.

    1. >>one of the finest examples of the Peter Principle in action.<<

      I see what you did there

    2. Lori needs to tone it down a notch...a little more pianissimo...

      Here in Cleveland, our bumbling, stumbling, fumbling, mayor..."Sleepy Frank" Jackson, finally retired after sixteen years at City Hall. Now we have the Boy Mayor, 34-year-old Justin Bibb, a former Obama intern, bank executive, and non-profit leader...with no political experience of any kind. Just like the former POTUS, Orange Julius had. Or, rather, didn't have.

      But on the other hoof, the last really good mayor of Chicago was probably Harold Washington. There aren't any old-school politicos left, who know what Chicagoans want and like--being rogered roundly, every goddamn day. As the old saying went: "The people of Chicago love their Dick Daley."

  2. My family, ranging from twenty somethings to those in their eighties definitely have dick in their repertoire of epithets . What a dick , being the most common and: " big dick swinging " my favorite , first used if memory serves to describe Lebron James dominance on the court by my jockish son.

    Not Lories biggest fan but this preported exchange moves her up a notch for me. Maybe its my Italian American side. Maybe im just a foul mouthed bully myself

  3. Not sure what an intelligent, well-reasoned comment here might be, but I think the world will be a better place if I add another fairly common usage of the word “dick,” by quoting a Richard Nixon opponent’s cute advice to his fellow Nixon haters, “Dick Nixon before he dicks you.”


  4. That Madam Mayor might have expressed her dominance over one of her minions by claiming the possession of a male genital appendage brings to mind a quip from a British comic when asked to characterize Mrs. Thacher: "Like Ronald Reagan, but with a bigger penis."

    As it has been described, I'm inclined to agree with the Mayor that the lawsuit is without merit. Not sure that "softly, softly" is necessarily the best way to deal with her underlings.


  5. I think this quote moves Lori into first place in regards to quotes. Beavers was always good, Daley's had some memorable ones, Paddy Bauler, Rahm, but I think this one is great. May not remember much of her administration 10 years from now, but she has left us some quotes. And I do remember T-Shirts with a picture of Nixon giving the peace sign and "Don't be a Dick" underneath. I think "dick" is pretty common as much as a-hole.

  6. "She's so bad at this. It makes a kind heart want to start rooting for her, a little bit."

    Since I voted for her (twice, ahem) I was rooting for her from the beginning. I don't know at what point I gave up on that futile exercise, but it was well before this. The current episode is not going to bring me back around, I'm afraid.

    If the photo atop the blog was specifically selected for this topic, it's a masterstroke. Pretty funny, either way!

    The mayor's remarks will certainly endure. In the early going, there's this:

  7. Didn't understand your dig at her alma mater, one of the top law schools in the nation.


    1. It wasn't a dig at the school, it was a dig at the graduates. A fine distinction, perhaps. Put it this way, a vital part of the education at Northwestern was seeing the sort of person they let in.

    2. Hmm, back in the day U of C accepted my application (and there was even an in-person interview). I ended up going elsewhere, mostly because I wanted to be father from home, but also because it seemed that that was a better place to go as a graduate student (the slogan “where fun goes to die” was not encouraging). Does that mean that I was the sort of person they would let in, or the fact that I didn’t take them up on it meant I wasn’t?

      I didn’t know much about Northwestern at the time, but I suspect I could have been happy there. OTOH, I ended up meeting my husband three months before I graduated, so I guess it all worked out as it should. Whew! Got that MRS degree after all.

    3. "Does that mean that I was the sort of person they would let in, or the fact that I didn’t take them up on it meant I wasn’t?" I'm gonna guess a little bit of both. ; )

      Generalizing is fun! But just because FME and I are jerks, doesn't mean that *everybody* who comments at EGD is a jerk! (I selected you to join me, FME, because you're the only one I'm sure might take that the way I intended...)

  8. I'd assumed the first dashed word was "dumbass."

  9. On the subject at hand, I wonder if this discussion would have come up if the mayor was a man. I tend to doubt that it would.

    1. Gosh, Coey, while there's plenty of sexism to be found with regard to commentary about the mayor, this is a rather unique instance. It's not just about a politician using crude language or being obnoxious; her bluster about having the biggest dick in Chicago is next-level stuff. It's NEWS, for crying out loud! ; )

      And when the Biggest Loser and Marco Rubio were sparring in the 2016 primary about the same general topic, it received a fair amount of notice.

    2. Fair point, and I guess that was somewhat more subtle. As much as anything involving Trump ever is.


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