Monday, January 14, 2013

Winners and Paloozas

An op-ed article by the pundit David Brooks of The New York Times appeared under the headline “Social Science Palooza III.”

Not everyone, myself included, immediately grasped the meaning of the headline (the meaning of the article itself is another question, not to be dealt with here).  What, you might wonder, is a palooza? 

You probably know the word lollapalooza, which is is a "remarkable or wonderful person or thing." It dates at least to 1896 in American English, and is of uncertain origin, although the Online Etymology Dictionary attributes it to "fanciful formation," whatever that may mean.

Old reliable Wikipedia provides this helpful information: The word—sometimes alternatively spelled and pronounced as lollapalootza, lalapaloosa, or lallapaloosa (the last by P. G. Wodehouse)—dates from a late 19th- or early 20th-century American idiomatic phrase meaning "an extraordinary or unusual thing, person, or event; an exceptional example or instance." In time the term also came to refer to a large lollipop.

Now for palooza: lollapalooza has given rise to this slang suffix that is used in the same way as other suffixes like “a-thon,” "a-go-go," "o-rama", etc. The suffix "a-palooza" is often used to imply that an entire extensive event is devoted to one subject, such as “Hip-hop-a-palooza,” “Crawfish-a-palooza,” “Quantum physics-a-palooza,” and so on.

Wiktionary has the word palooza, as follows: from Lollapalooza, a music festival, from lallapalootza [origin unknown, probably a fanciful formation], a neologism meaning "an exaggerated event."

The Urban Dictionary lists palooza with the following user-provided definitions: "an all-out crazy party”; “a very drunken extravagant party with the host’s name attached, e.g. Billapalooza”; "a big Norwegian festival"; or “a hopelessly love-lorn, insecure person, desperately seeking a relationship, but forever facing rejection." (I think there is some confusion in that last definition with palooka.

The headline on Brooks' column would seem to suggest that it is a variety of vivid miscellaneous information about social sciences, and that it is the third such roundup that Brooks has authored.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou is noted for his “Drivel-a-paloozas,” of which the following is a representative example: 

            The New York Times costs several bucks. 
            At first, you might exclaim, “Aw shucks, 
            That’s not as much dough as it looks, 
            To get essays by David Brooks, 
            And all the other learned sages 
            Who fill the Times’s Op-Ed Pages.” 

            But once you’ve coughed up all that jack 
            Then you may want to get it back, 
            When you have found you’re truly pissed off 
            To read a piece by Nicholas Kristof, 
            Or if you learn that Maureen Dowd 
            Is much too liberal and too loud, 
            And furthermore, that guy Bill Keller 
            Is really something less than stellar, 
            Not to mention that Ross Douthat 
            You’d like to run off at the mouth at, 
            And you simply cannot bear a 
            Word that comes from Joe Nocera, 
            Or thoughts that seem a little loony 
            From former epicure Frank Bruni, 
            And you’re affected by Gail Collins 
            The same way as you are by pollens, 
            And realize that Charles Blow 
            Writes nothing that you want to know, 
            And that Paul Krugman and Tom Friedman 
            Are columnists you just don’t need, man. 

           That’s when you may feel it’s outrageous 
            You paid big bucks for Op-Ed Pages, 
            When you don’t like a single pundit. 
            As for your dough--they’ll not refund it.

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