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    You Got a Pretty Mouth, Cousin Barack

    cheneybillies.jpgQuote:  “There’s horse thieves and heroes in everybody’s line.” Genealogist Chip Hughes, interviewed in Slate.

    Figure of Speech:  synecdoche (sin-EC-doe-kee), the generalizing trope.

    Dick Cheney and Barack Obama are eighth cousins, according to the vice president’s wife, Lynne Cheney. The Chicago Sun-Times further reports that Obama happens to be an eleventh cousin of President Bush.

    Big deal, say genealogists. Shimmy out far enough on the limb of your family tree, and you’ll find that you’re related to practically everyone. (We have credible evidence that Dick Cheney is a direct descendent of Loki, the Norse god of mischief and evil.)

    Chip Hughes employs a rhythmic, alliterative synecdoche to downplay astonishment over the Cheney-Obama tie. The synecdoche —  a trope in which an individual or species represents a group or genus —  makes “horse thieves and heroes” stand for notable bad guys and good guys. The trope’s specificity lends enargeia, the before-your-very-eyes vividness that rhetors have sought for millennia.

    Snappy Answer:  “Mix horse thieves and heroes, and you get politicians.”

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    Reader Comments (11)

    The Cheney-Obama connection may not be genealogically significant, but it could make a difference politically. If Obama becomes the Democratic nominee, the Republicans will attempt to connect him with Muslim extremists. A bit of Cheney blood makes Obama seem more like a good ol' American boy.
    October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPaul
    Excellent point, Paul. On the other hand, this story might inspire the smearmeisters in both parties to dig up alarming relatives.

    October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    I don't get the "pretty mouth" joke. Does that refer to something?
    October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia
    It does indeed. In the movie "Deliverance," a backwoodsman delivers the line to an alarmed camper.

    October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    I think I read somewhere that Cheney's forebears were Mormon. If so, does that mean that Barack has Mormom ancestors? And would that mitigate the Romney religious question? Hmmm. This is such a slippery slope.
    October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLinda
    It would be even better if Cheney were descended from a Mormon and two of his wives.

    October 17, 2007 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    Which leads to a challenge: Who would you most like to have blood ties with the presidential candidates? Here are mine:

    Hillary Clinton = Betty Page
    Mitt Romney = Dick Cheney
    Rudolph Giuliani = Betty Page
    John Edwards = Beau Brummel
    Ron Paul = Lenin
    Barack Obama = Dumbo the Flying Elephant

    October 17, 2007 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    Who is Betty Page?
    October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDorothy
    Betty Page was a pin-up girl during the 1950s who pioneered in soft-porn S&M. A movie, "The Notorious Betty Page," came out last year.
    October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    When I clicked your link to Slate, that nasty farezarfallen ad popped up. Falling is really not something I like to see related to airplanes.
    October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMikeP
    One of my clients is Southwest Airlines. They DEFINITELY wouldn't mention falling in an ad campaign. And they wouldn't do it in fake German, either.

    October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro

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