Gnomicon 124

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Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  124
Monday 10 September 2012

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Macho does not prove mucho.
Zsa Zsa Gabor (6 Feb 1917 – )

This Hungarian-American personality has a history of ‘being on’ – and doing so in an often unforgettable way.

I’m not sure I’ve seen her in any movies, but she does seem to be a kind of public actress, and perhaps exemplifies the notion that some people are just “famous for being famous” (apparently first attributed to Malcolm Muggeridge).

Nor am I really interested in her as such, but she has come up with some clever observations over the years, like “How many husbands have I had? You mean apart from my own?” and “He taught me housekeeping; when I divorce I keep the house.”  One expected the outrageous from her, and she complied with public expectations.  And, not infrequently, her pronunciamentos rely on some witty paronomsia for their memorableness – as in her declaration about ‘macho’ above.  She certainly had a way with words.

It’s the sentiment that attracted my attention.

The word itself comes into English by way of Spanish from the Latin diminutive masculus ‘manly, vigorous’, and simply meant, originally, ‘masculine, male’. But it has acquired the pejorative connotation of the boastful, swaggeringly male.  And the question, then, articulated for us by Zsa Zsa, is how mucho macho really is.  Well, she’s probably right in that it is not very mucho of what it purports to represent, especially in today’s post-feminist world.  Of course there are societies even today in which macho in that male self-aggrandizing sense is culturally normative — for whatever reasons: a sense of inferiority, a fear of women, a need for control based on socially sanctioned fiat.  Probably the least macho men in the world are the Scandinavians, and as one moves south and eastward that is less and less the case (for a mind-boggling example, cf. here!).  Even in relatively enlightened cultures, the notion that one’s importance or value is tied to something as aleatory as gender finds expression in a statement-with-a-shrug like, “After all, I’m ‘just’ a girl!”

And, need the obvious even be pointed out – that without that allegedly secondary gender there wouldn’t be muchos muchachos to be macho?

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