04 November 2005

what can brown make you blog about?

This morning on the way to work there was a preponderance of UPS trucks, enough to make me remark, How can Brown get in YOUR way? (A play on the UPS slogan, What can Brown do for you?) Immediately I was reminded of two things. One is a claim somewhere in the syntax literature that idioms allow the subject to be switched out (e.g. Ed/Sheila kicked the bucket to mean “die”) but do not pivot around the subject (e.g., there is no idiom like The bucket got Ed/Sheila.) Not up on my syntax reading, and I can’t think of it offhand.

The other thing was this apparently Russian phenomenon of making ironic comments orienting to the 2nd person. Things like, “in Russia, you don’t get a job, your job gets YOU”. This was blogged about recently (but I can’t remember which site), possibly as a snowclone, with the structure You don’t Xv Yn, Yn Xv YOU. It’s also an example of a more general rhetorical device (whose name also escapes me) with the structure [not] Xv [predicate [Yn]], Yn [predicate[Xv]]. JFK used it in “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” (Notably un-Russian, since the YOU is a subject, not an object, in the second clause).

Nevertheless I was curious if anyone else had played on the UPS slogan. The answer is yes, but very rarely: almost all of them are of the structure [question word] [aux] Brown [predicate] YOU, obtainable with Google searches like “how can Brown” + “ups”. So far, who does not seem to have been used as the question word, but I have found lots of hows and one why. Looking for variations using “what” is tricky because of the occurrence of the actual slogan – it appears that many other instances just repeat the slogan ironically. Also, can is typical as the auxiliary, but do can substitute as well.

Here are some examples. Many (but not all) use YOU in the verbal complement, and many also use "scare quotes" to mark their statement as a faux slogan. (With apologies to UPS; satisfied customers don't go online to vent...)

“So, how can Brown screw your delivery up, today? When it absolutely, positively, has to be somewhere else, use UPS”

could handle the idiots, but not the shitty management. the’re on the way out…i hope fedex takes most of the market share. “How can brown shit on you”

BUT WAIT, if I let them direct bill my account all will be OK >>>>NOT IN MY LIFETIME >> HOW CAN BROWN FK U? real easy

Friday, January 14 How can Brown poop on you? OK, it's time for a rant I figure. ... However, it's coming by UPS again, so cross your fingers. Logically. ...

Interests, Quads. Occupation, UPS how can brown bring you down

I used to work as tech support for UPS (Motto: "How can Brown fuck with YOU?")

I hesitate to ask this -- but how can brown put "a few small dents in the tip of the headstock"?

How can brown screw you?! Long...

like i said in the contract there's no language that we can find to support that statement.my question is can we win a grevince that could get us extra work.How can BROWN get away with this??? 'Cuz they can. Most Locals won't fight for these issues. These have been issues for many contracts and language that would address this has been left out

And why would the fedex guy get more than the ups man???? That's wrong. What did brown ever do to you ...

And as for Teamster 251..."What Did Brown Do To Him".

Thus, some intermodals run hard, very hard, because Brown says so. Why does Brown say so? Because FEDEX is mostly running by truck and these schedules must be competitive for market share.

I'm getting sick of paying UPS. "Why does Brown keep DOing me?"


At Sun Nov 06, 07:15:00 AM 2005, Blogger language said...

That's not a "Russian phenomenon," it's a comedian's shtick -- originally the creation of Yakov Smirnoff, who is indeed Russian in origin but created the shtick here in America. From the Wikipedia article I linked:

Yakov Smirnoff's legacy is the "In Soviet Russia" jokes, which frequently appear in many online communities... All of Smirnoff's original "In Soviet Russia" jokes made use of wordplay that carried Orwellian undertones. For example, in the jokes "In America, you watch television. In Soviet Russia, television watches you!" or "In America, you check out books at the library. In Soviet Russia, library checks you out!" both punchlines refer to systems of omnipresent surveillance characteristic of police states... [Another example is] the joke "In California, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, the Party can always find you!"

At Sun Nov 06, 10:44:00 AM 2005, Blogger Bob Kennedy said...

Thanks for the info, LH. I believe I've seen the structure in old-school one-liner humor too. I was considering including this one in the post: "I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out". But the other half of the structure is only implied (a boxing match broke out at a hockey game).

At Thu Aug 02, 08:17:00 PM 2007, Blogger vanvugt said...

"What can Brown do for you" sounds like a Bush statement from New Orleans after Katrina hit. Anyway, he did a hechuva job.


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