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Posted by on Mar 25, 2009 in At TMV | 5 comments

PLAYING THE DOZENS – Pundit Edition!



I remember back on my childhood days, I had ridiculous skills when it came to “playing the dozens”. For those not in the know, here is a good definition of “playing the dozens” (via Wikipedia):

The dozens is an element of the African American oral tradition in which two competitors, usually males, go head to head in a competition of often good-natured, ribald “trash talk”. They take turns insulting—”cracking”, “west coast dissin’,” or “ranking” on—one another, their adversary’s mother or other family member until one of them has no comeback. This is called playing the dozens or doin’ the dozens, and sometimes dirty dozens, The dozens is a contest of personal power—of wit, self-control, verbal ability, mental agility and mental toughness. Each putdown, each “snap”, ups the ante. Defeat can be humiliating; but a skilled contender, win or lose, may gain respect. The dozens is one of the contributing elements in the development of hip hop, especially the practice of battling.

The dozens can be a harmless game, or, if tempers flare, a prelude to violence. While the competition, on its face, is usually light-hearted, smiles sometimes mask real tensions. But in its purest form, the dozens is part of an African-American custom of verbal sparring, of “woofin'” and “signifyin’,” intended to defuse conflict nonviolently, descended from an oral tradition rooted in traditional West African cultures.

“Yo’ momma,” a common, widely recognized argumentative rejoinder in African-American vernacular speech, is a cryptic, and sometimes comical, allusion to the dozens. Two examples would be, “Yo’ momma is so fat, when she jumps in the air, she gets stuck!” or “Yo’ momma is so stupid when I tell her spring is right around the corner she goes looking for it!”

Actually I used that “spring right around the corner” wisecrack back in da day but I digress. While watching President Obama’s opening statements from his press conference last night, I knew the teleprompter meme will be brought out yet again. Sure enough, Ron Fournier from the Associated Press kicks things off with the slammin’, jammin’, oh so hip article title of Analysis: Teleprompter telegraphs Obama caution. Well, not so slammin’ or jammin’. Solid is about it. But Robert Stacy McCain kicks it up several notches with this funky fresh title “My teleprompter tells me to tell you this stuff that other people write for me”. Then drops this zinger:

OK, this is not the opening soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Richard III. There is no reason that simple talking-points lines like that should require a teleprompter. The guy is becoming a punchline.

Go RSM, go! Take it away Jules Crittenden (you bad mutha-“shut yo mouth” with the totally tubular article title of Teleprompt Action Needed!):

Which tragic, or tragicomic Shakespearean figure is Obama? Given the gaffes and the donkey-headedness, I’m liking Puck, but I suspect we’re headed into darker, more brooding territory than that. He may need a character all his own. Teleprompto. Maybe a hybrid. MacTelepromptlet.

As the late great singer/musician Rick James said: COLD BLOODED! Jules… YOU DA MAN! Gimme five on the black hand side. Uh… Well… Just gimme five! Fist bump anyone??

Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t about me wagging my finger at Ron Fournier, Robert Stacy McCain, Jules Crittenden, or others. What I am doing is calling this type of banter what it REALLY is:

PLAYING THE DOZENS – Pundit Edition!

The blogosphere and MSM is full of “snappers” (some better than others). The teleprompter meme is no more than long-term “dozens” game. There’s personal attacks between “snappers”, ever escalating “comebacks”, “woofin”, “signifyin”, trash talk, flaring tempers, and the holy grail of the “snapper”:


But in the end, “snapping” is all fun and games. I may put the smackdown on someone in a dozens game but in the end, my win is just within the framework of the dozens. I beat my opponent in the dozens. That’s all. No more, no less. We’re all entitled to being silly. But when the silliness is looked at or taken as important and wholly relevant, that’s when we have a problem. Also, criticism is not equal to “playing the dozens”. Got a problem with the economic plan = criticism. Got a problem with the teleprompter = “playing the dozens”.

And besides, it would really be a damn fine dozens game if the primary opponent (President Obama) would crack back on the same level. But he’s the President of the United States. Guess he doesn’t have the time.

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