Monday, November 2, 2015

Totally Texas

A fact only recently disclosed in the national press: Norwegians refer to utterly crazy things as being "totally Texas" as in the expression "Det var helt Texas." As you can imagine, this resulted in a lot of hooting and hollering, put-downs, and bad feelings; given the climate of state stereotypes conveniently used nowadays as a source of both humor and state-bashing!*

It turns out that this term has been around for more than 50 years. It's an example of metonymy, a figure of speech where something is called by something associated with it, like White House for the Presidency, Washington for the United States government, suits for administrators, and so on.

Presumably, during the heyday of the Wild West movies, Texas became associated with the film-depicted excitement, confusion, violence associated with the "Wild West"**

And yet, I've never had the sense that I crossed over a cultural divide when I went to Texas, sorry, guys. 

Anyway, some Texans are annoyed. But I have a suggestion for dismayed Texans: play tit for tat. Use a ju-jitsu move to their own advantage. I'm talking about letting language work for  them.

Metonymy can work two ways, y'know.

Why don't Texans use the expression "totally Norway" to describe something as being staid, dull, utter predictable?  Who knows, this could catch on with the hipsters in Austin (That movie was totally Norway!), football game attendees in Plano (A 0-0 tie? How Norway), or gourmets in Dallas (Pedro's burritos were simply Norway, no flavor).

But I can understand Texans' being troubled. What other American states managed to be enshrined in the vocabulary of the Norwegian language? What do people there say about Louisiana or Tennessee? Have we made the big time with international recognition, like Texas, California, and New York? And is it possible that the residents of some states actively embrace stereotypes of themselves?

There's an alternative plan. Go with and embrace the crazy Texas image as a compliment. After all, whatever one can say about Texas, it was never said that it was dull like Nebraska. As a matter of fact, Texas has to be in the top five interesting states in the United States!

*Bad kitty!
**Very much overdrawn, methinks. But, after all, mundane doings don't sell books or movie tickets.


John Hill said...

One of my former coworkers from Oklahoma used to tease a Texan coworker by saying, "If it weren't for Oklahoma cowboys and Mexican whores, there wouldn't be a Texas!"

I don't think our Texan friend liked it very well!

Mike said...

I was just reading a comment thread on another site about Alaskan tour guides and Texans. Apparently some Texans (not all) like to announce that they are from Texas. The tour guides response is if Alaska were cut in half to make two states, Texas would be the third largest state.

Linda Kay said...

I'm not Texas born, but love living here. And I have to say the history and general attitudes are rich!

Hell Hound said...

Why not just consider Texas to be a fun, delightful place?

TexWisGirl said...

consider me confused.

Bilbo said...

Well, it seems to me that the Texans have worked very hard to create that crazy image, so why not stick with the Norwegians on this one?

Kristen Drittsekkdatter said...

That is so Texas!

Gorilla Bananas said...

I once visited Texas and I didn't see anyone wearing a cowboy hat. Maybe it's because I was in Houston. But let's not forget Lucy Ewing. I will forgive Texas everything for her sake.