August 10, 2007

I am X, hear me Y

According to Allen Salkin, "Be Yourselves, Girls, Order the Rib-Eye", NYT 8/9/2007,

In an earlier era, conventional dating wisdom for women was to eat something at home alone before a date, and then in company order a light dinner to portray oneself as dainty and ladylike. For some women, that is still the practice. "It's better not to have a jalapeño fajita plate, especially on the first date," said Andrea Bey, 28, who sells video surveillance equipment in Irving, Tex., and describes herself as "curvy." [...]

But others, especially those who are thin, say ordering a salad displays an unappealing mousiness.

"It seems wimpy, insipid, childish," said Michelle Heller, 34, a copy editor at TV Guide. "I don't want to be considered vapid and uninteresting."

Ordering meat, on the other hand, is a declarative statement, something along the lines of "I am woman, hear me chew."

This is a snowclone that we've somehow managed to miss.

The original, of course, was Helen Reddy's 1972 hit "I am woman":

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an' pretend
'cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again

Chew is new, I think, but the process of substituting something else for roar probably began soon after the song came out. (Though the earliest example I found in a few seconds of searching was the headline "I am woman, hear me pour breakfast juice", from the Dallas Morning News, August 16, 1990.)

Some substitutions are rhymes: bore, snore, tour (well, in some dialects), Gore, soar, whore, more, pour, war, etc.

But the first few pages of verb-substitutions from a Google search for {"I am woman hear me" -roar} includes shop, rock, bitch and moan, walk, despair, set off the airport security detector, kick ass, blubber, meme, campaign, run, ramble, expound, meow, click, whine, moo, stab, whimper, game, laugh, blend, sing, caulk, scream, draw, rhyme, blog, sing torch & twang, purr, shoot -- and on through some 28,000 other pages.

Looking at the other obvious substitution -- "I am X, hear me roar" -- we find X = Peter, worm, GeekGirl, Justin Bonomo, Boobalicious, Kittenwar, protoplasm, Naturezilla, Superwoman, Catwoman, Hobbes, geek, blogger, Monki, Lizmonster, Hellionexciter, lion, mommy, milquetoast, Corolla, Gibbon -- and on through more than 100,000 other pages in the obvious Google search.

And of course there are plenty of double substitutions, like "I am Hannah, hear me croak", "I am Puppy, Hear Me Yap", "I am cow, hear me moo", "I am geek, hear me beep", and so on, further than I'm willing to read.

Posted by Mark Liberman at August 10, 2007 07:13 AM