Archive for the ‘solecismus’ Category

It’s Pat!

December 8, 2011 2 comments

We have all been in the situation when we see someone and we aren’t real sure whether it is a male or a female. Most of the time the reasons for this obscurity is for same sex relationship reason while others it is just simply because they have both male and female characteristics. NBC’s Saturday Night Live, humored us this awkward experience that we all have or will encounter sometime in our lives with their sketch titled, “Pat.” Played by Julia Sweeney, Pat sketches ran from 1991-1994 with the true sex of he/she never being determined. Here is the text from the theme song of Pat:

“A lot of people say, “What’s that?” It’s Pat!
A lot of people ask, “Who’s he? Or she?”
A ma’am or a sir, accept him or her
or whatever it might be.
It’s time for androgyny.
Here comes Pat!”

Pat can be described as a somewhat overweight character with short, curly black hair who wore glasses and a blue western-style shirt with tan slacks that spoke with a squeaky voice keeping the gender undeterminable from others. In Pat’s 14 sketch run, many attempts were made to discover he/she’s gender. The rhetorical concept of solecismus is at work within the dialogue between Pat and the people that he/she encountered. Here is an example from an episode aired on 11/16/1991 between Pat and a trainer named Andrea’s attempt to find Pat’s sex:

Andrea: Is Pat short for something?

Pat: No, just Pat.

Andrea: Ah, do you happen to have a middle name?

Pat: It’s O’Neil. It’s my mother’s maiden name, yuck!

Andrea: Age?

Pat: 30

Andrea: Height?

Pat: 5’8

Andrea: Sex?

Pat: Yes, Please!

Andrea: Would you say that you are in good health? Are you having regular periods…..of activity?

Pat: I sometimes dance alone in my apartment.

As you can see, Andrea isn’t able to determine Pat’s sex to determine what type of exercise program would be best. Every attempt to determine Pat’s sex is shot down with a humorous response by Pat. Andrea realized the mistake that she made by asking if Pat is having regular periods. When there is a few seconds of awkward silence she adds the rest of the sentence, “of activity.”

The obvious effect of the use of solecismus in the “It’s Pat” sketches of SNL is humor. The sketch is able to show that everyone experiences those moments of guessing the sex of someone and may misspeak and make a reference to something masculine instead of feminine or vise/versa. To avoid being rude, one may change what they have said or add to it to make the question not so obvious.

To view this episode of SNL, follow the link below.

“Hulu – Saturday Night Live: It’s Pat.” Watch TV. Watch Movies. | Online | Free | Hulu. NBC:SNL. Web. 01 Dec. 2011.
“Pat (Saturday Night Live) – Reference.” ENotes – Literature Study Guides, Lesson Plans, and More. E-Notes. Web. 02 Dec. 2011.
Categories: humor, solecismus, TV episode

Come on, Santa!

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

It is Christmas morning and you are so excited to rush to the Christmas Tree to open the presents that Santa has hopefully left you the night before, however; much to your dismay, all of the presents that Santa has left for you are not for a boy named Kelly, but for a girl including: finds several baby dolls, a stroller, a pink guitar-it’s a sea of pink in his living room.  A letter is immediately written to Santa:

“Dear Santa, Kelly is a boy’s name too.

Love Kelly”

The ending of the commercial says, “Getting it right matters, get the JcPenny gift card.”

The rhetorical concept of solecismus is extremely evident in this JcPenny commercial from the 1990’s. It represents ignorance from an authority figure- Santa Clause. He sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake-obviously not. How in the world did he not know that Kelly was a boy? Santa was ignorant to the fact that names aren’t as gender specific as they once were.  Kelly is now also a name for a boy, as well as a girl.

The moral of the story is that you can never go wrong when buying a gift card but this commercial has both a positive and negative effect. The positive effect is showing the significance of understanding that names aren’t as gender specific as they once were. You must be extra careful when selecting a gift or just assuming that a person is a boy or girl just by the name. Getting the right gender specific gift is very important and the easiest way to do that if you aren’t sure about the gender is to just give them a gift card. The second effect is a negative impact that you might have one someone, especially a young child if you are ignorant to the fact that there are many names that are now used for both boys and girls.

Wouldn’t you be broken hearted if you woke up to gifts that were not for you on Christmas morning? Santa, don’t be ignorant.

To view the commercial, follow the link below.

“Kelly’s a Boy’s Name Too – Cute Commerical – YouTube.” YouTube. JcPenny, 10 Oct. 2009. Web. 02 Dec. 2011.

Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There

December 8, 2011 1 comment

We are all familiar with the “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” commercial jingle. In the latest State Farm commercial, the goal is to show potential clients that their State Farm agent will be there for them whenever they are needed, even at 3 A.M.  

When a wife overhears her husband on the phone, she storms down the stairs to see what he is up to at 3 A.M.

Wife: “Who are you talking to?”

Husband: “It’s Jake, from State Farm.”

Wife: “Jake, from State Farm at 3 in the morning? Who is this?”

Husband: “It’s Jake, from State Farm.”

Wife: “What are you wearing, Jake from State Farm?”

Jake: “Ah, khakis?”

Wife: “She sounds hideous.”

Husband: “Well, she’s a guy, so.”

The rhetorical concept of solecismus is used quite obviously in this commercial. The ignorance possessed by the wife is shown through her claim of Jake being a “she.”  Instead of staying calm, she jumps to conclusions and just assumes that her husband is talking to another woman being that it is 3 A.M. She is completely oblivious to the fact that her husband really is talking to Jake their State Farm agent.

There is one main effect from the use of solecismus in this commercial. The effect is obviously humor. It is funny and somewhat silly that the husband is talking to their State Farm agent at 3 A.M. about different policies. The humor is accelerated when the wife jumps to her conclusion and ignorantly calls Jake a she even after speaking with him.

To view the commercial, follow the link below.

“State Farm® Commercial – State of Unrest (Jake) – YouTube.” YouTube. State Farm, 09 June 2011. Web. 01 Dec. 2011.

Peanuts: Peppermint Patty and Marcie

December 8, 2011 1 comment


Charles Schultz developed and wrote the cartoon comic strip Peanuts from 1950-2000. The character “Peppermint Patty” was first introduced into the comic strip in 1966 and later in the short film, You’re in Love, Charlie Brown, in 1973. Patty’s best friend Marcie, or as she most often refers to her, “My dorky friend from camp”, was first introduced to the comic strip in 1968 and immediately calls her “Sir.” Peppermint Patty was Marcie’s tent monitor at summer camp and is believed to have come off in an intimidating way toward the other campers. This may or may not be the reason that her pal Marcie continuously calls her “Sir” instead of “Ma’am” throughout their entire Peanuts career.  

 The comic strip above illustrates the use of the rhetorical device of solecismus with the ignorant misuse of gender toward Peppermint Patty- sir instead of ma’am- by Marcie. In the beginning, Peppermint Patty is extremely annoyed by Marcie calling her “Sir” but she eventually learns to accept it as the cartoon and short films continue throughout the years.

 The reason for the Marcie’s ignorance, even after Peppermint Patty saying “Stop calling me Sir!” over and over is somewhat unclear. It is obvious that Peppermint Patty is indeed a female but Marcie still continues to call her sir. It may be due to the fact that Peppermint Patty is portrayed as a “Tomboy” or “Hippie” because she is always participating in sporting events, is always dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, and is never seen without sandals on as opposed to the other female Peanuts characters that are always wearing dresses and doing more feminine things. It may also be that Marcie looks up to Peppermint Patty and sees her as an authority figure or Marcie feeling intimidated by Peppermint Patty.

 The use of solecismus in Peanuts serves two functions; the first one being to add humor to the characters of Peppermint Patty and Marcie. The humor is more evident in the film versions of the cartoon than in the comic strip. In the following link, you can see that Marcie calls Peppermint Patty “Sir” numerous times in the short clip. This helps to add humor to the character and gives the two best friends something to fight about. The second effect of this concept is to show the world that not all women have to be feminine. Peppermint Patty was one of the very first comic strip characters of that time to be portrayed in a “Tomboyish” manner. It shows that girls can be intimidating and play sports just as boys can. This helps to bridge the gap between “Tomboys” and “Girly-Girls.”

 There are some people that believe that Peppermint Patty and Marcie have a lesbian relationship with each other and that is why she is called “Sir.” There have been several parodies of this belief in other cartoon comics such as The Simpsons. I find this accusation ludicrous and I do not believe that was Schultz’s purpose for using this concept.


Schultz, Charles. “Peanuts.” Comic strip. Go Comics. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.

Schultz, Charles. “Peppermint Patty’s Schooldays – Clip.” YouTube. Peanuts Online, 25 Jan. 2010. Web. 01 Dec. 2011.

Soleismus: Overview

December 6, 2011 5 comments

According to Lanham, solecismus is the “ignorant misuse of cases, genders, and tenses” (142). The example used by Lanham of this concept is from a Portuguese-English phrasebook:

 How is that gentilman who you did speak by and by?

 Is a German.

 I did think him Englishman.

He is of the Saxony side.

He speak the French very well.

Tough he is German.

He speak so much well italyan, french, spanish and english, that among the Italyans, they believe him Italyan, he speak the frenche as the Frenches himselves. The Spanishesmen believe him Spanishing, and the Englishes, Englisman

 It is difficult to enjoy well so much several languages (142).

The ignorant misuse of cases and tenses in this passage make it hard to read and to understand what is trying to be conveyed by the author. In this case the grammatical errors are pure ignorance however; solecismus may be used on purpose to add humor to a situation or help establish the credibility of the author with the audience.

Solecismus is defined by the Rhetoricae Silva webpage, of Brigham Young University, as being “An element of speech or writing that is incorrect grammatically.” This is especially true of the above excerpt.

Lanham, Richard A. “Solecismus.” A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. Berkeley: University of California, 1991. 142. Print.

“Solecism.” Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric. Bringham Young University. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.

Categories: overview, solecismus