F is for FLOTUS

Let’s begin with a little confession. A couple of years ago I watched a whole series of VEEP thinking that the President (who was never seen because the programme is all about Selina, the Vice President) was actually called Potus. I thought it was his surname. Thankfully my lovely husband was able to put me straight and so I was able to move on in life knowing that POTUS means President Of The United States and his wife is therefore FLOTUS: First Lady of the United States. Doh. Sometimes I can be a bit slow on the uptake!

So the FLOTUS is on my mind today in particular because I was listening the British radio this morning and apparently some woman back home turned 90 today and its a big deal😉

As there is no monarchy over here, there is no direct equivalent, but there is the First Lady and I have been writing about First Ladies this week with my book reviewer’s hat on. I’ve been reading and writing about Louisa, The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas, an excellent biography of the wife of John Quincy Adams, the sixth POTUS. I also did some research about First Ladies in general and found that there are regular surveys carried out asking US historians and scholars who the ‘best’ First Lady is/was. Without preempting my article for Bookbrowse, here are some amusing facts about First Ladies that I learned this week:

Laura Bush tops the list of First Ladies who “could have done more”.

Mary Lincoln rates pretty poorly and drags down her husband to 7th place in the best “power couple” category. In the First Ladies’ ranks she comes in at a lowly 31st, but in previous years has been in last place.

Number one in six out of 10 categories is Eleanor Roosevelt. She was also the longest serving First Lady.

Dolley Madison ranks as 4th best First Lady but I’d personally like to recognise her as the First Lady with the most jolly name. Here is a picture of Dolley who was First Lady from 1809-1817. I think she looks pretty jolly too:

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Michelle Obama joined the rankings the last time this survey was conducted (in 2014). She does well, ranking 5th overall, and also tops the list of First Lady who ‘most effectively managed family life while in office’.

Only two women have been married to a President and the mother of a President: Abigail Adams and Barbara Bush. Abigail Adams (FLOTUS of the 2nd POTUS) also tops the rankings for Integrity and Value to the President, placing 2nd overall to Mrs Roosevelt.

Jackie Kennedy takes 3rd place overall and wins out in the categories of Being a White House Steward and Public Image.

Hilary Clinton came in 6th place in the 2014 survey but she tops the rank in one very topical category…… First Lady most capable of being President!

 

C is for Caucusing

Feeling topical this morning, I have been dittering around on the internet – and dipping in and out of my much loved Historical Thesaurus of the the Oxford English Dictionary – wondering if the word caucus originated in the States. Caucus, and in particular the -ing form (gerund or participle? maybe depends on the usage?) sounds like an old sort of word. It makes me think of wassailing, and I don’t think that’s only because caucus rhymes with raucous.

It seemed to me there would be a bit of history out there about caucusing and caucuses, but what I came across instead was the perfect literary use of caucusing that I am a) only sad I hadn’t remembered myself from reading the book, and b) delighted with because it pretty much summed up some of the electoral craziness that has been going on over here for months.

I refer, of course, to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and in particular, to this:

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Chapter 3 of Lewis Carroll’s famous novel (first published in 1863)  is called A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale, and here is the pertinent text:

“What is a Caucus-race?” said Alice; not that she much wanted to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that somebody ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.

“Why,” said the Dodo, “the best way to explain it is to do it.” (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter-day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.)

First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (“the exact shape doesn’t matter,” it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no “One, two, three, and away!”, but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out “The race is over!”, and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, “But who has won?”

This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.”

Particularly given the close results in the Democrat caucus last night, it seems to me that Alice might have grown up and turned into Hillary Clinton and that Bernie Sanders could be The Lory, who also takes part in the Dodo’s race and claims superiority over Alice because he’s older than she is. No? Just a thought.

 

 

L is for Lip Dub

Oh my, I feel old! I have toyed with not posting this as I did find a lip dub made by a college in the UK on YouTube, but that was only one. Here, it looks like every high school does one. What is it? Well it’s a lip-syncing video made by high school kids on a grand scale. The key common factors seem to me – in the poll of three lip dub’s I have just managed to watch (although I only made it through all of one of them and that was the one Child 1 was in so I felt somewhat obliged to view it all) – to be as follows:

  1. Whole school participation – already I’m thinking this is a massive waste of time when kids could actually be learning something.
  2. All the chosen ones – those that actually lip sync, rather than the hoi polloi lining the walls or doing stuff – have to walk backwards. That’s practically dangerous.
  3. The stuff they do. Apart from the lip sync-ers, there seems to be a heavy emphasis on cheer-leading cheering and football players looking manly. Quite a lot of balls get thrown. Mr T says he likes the school band, (so we are BOTH getting old, clearly) but where are the chemistry labs?? This is a school people!!
  4. Dodgy camerawork. I can only imagine the fall-out after this. In the ones I’ve seen the camera flies past hoards of desperate looking teenagers, all consumed with hand clenching excitement at being in this video. How many hopes and hearts across the land are crushed each year when these poor kids find out that they are a) barely in focus, b) grinning inanely or c) that they just bent down to tie their shoe at the wrong moment and missed being in the Lip Dub altogether. No. It’s just too painful thinking of all those young dreams being shattered.
  5. Littering. In my sample, again, admittedly small, there was a lot of little bits of paper being thrown over heads. What’s that all about? And who had to clear it up, eh?
  6. Apart from that it’s great😉 School spirit! Yee ha. Yay. etc.

If I haven’t put off all right-thinking people already, here is the Lip Dub for Child 1’s school this year. Given that it is another seven years before Child 3 finishes high school (known as graduating in these here parts) I don’t think this is the last lip dub I’ll get to enjoy….

O is for Ornery

There are some words that are just not British. And this is one of them. Ornery. I came across it splashed across a snickers bar the other day and took a quick photo:

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Who are you when you are hungry? the bar asks. In fact all the answers pretty much bemused me… (Princess? Sleepy? or Ornery??) but only ornery had me stumped. It even, for some reason, is really hard for me to pronounce.

A quick internet surf has revealed that the word comes from a contraction of the word ordinary – makes total sense – which in time has come to mean grumpy. It is a good old word with solid credentials at least as far back as 1884 when Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

I have never read and no intention of reading said book. I’d even go so far as to say that I am actually definitively planning on NOT reading that book since I couldn’t make it all the way through reading Tom Sawyer to Child 2.

But it does make for an interesting study of a word in transition. Here are two quotes from Mr Finn, one using ornery meaning ordinary, and the other meaning grumpy, cantankerous or difficult. Or at least that’s what I think. If you think differently, let me know.

1.”It was pretty ornery preaching—all about brotherly love, and such-like tiresomeness; but everybody said it was a good sermon”

2.”All I say is, kings is kings, and you got to make allowances. Take them all around, they’re a mighty ornery lot. It’s the way they’re raised.”