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Wassily or Wasilla.

At Tim Blair's blog, some are speculating about why Barack Obama might have mispronounced "Wasilla" as "Wassily."

Most of us would make more slips of the tongue than the candidates do. And it's only natural that he would use a name he's probably more familiar with (Wassily) than one he's less familiar with (Wasilla). I had to struggle not to make the same substitution.

Before last week, I had never heard of Wasilla, but I had heard of Wassily. Indeed, we have two Wassily chairs based on a 1925 design by Marcel Breuer in our Hyde Park apartment, bought 30-35 years ago. These chairs are famous enough to have their own Wikipedia entry. Probably at least one of Obama's friends has such a chair.

Wassily Chair, Marcel Breuer

As you might expect, these chairs are named after an artist even more famous than the chairs, Wassily Kandinski.

On White II, Wassily Kandinski

So I think that Barack Obama, who lives about 10 blocks away from me and knows some of the people I know, probably was thinking of a more familiar word — Wassily — the name of a Bauhaus chair and a Russian painter, not that of a small town in Alaska. I know that when I first read "Wasilla," I had to think carefully to avoid thinking "Wassily."

I wonder if Sarah Palin even knows of the Breuer chairs or the Russian painter.

[And if she doesn't, I wonder if that is a good thing or a bad thing.]

Hoosier:
"I wonder if Sarah Palin even knows of the Breuer chairs or the Russian painter."

How well does anyone ever really KNOW a chair?
9.7.2008 1:42am
James Lindgren (mail):
Initially, I didn't turn on comments on this thread b/c (1) comments on candidate threads tend to be so agreesively unfair on both sides that they serve little purpose, and (2) the more insubstantial the post is, the more unhinged people tend to get.

If a post tries to make a wry observation, some people tend to be mad that it got posted at all and others are mad it doesn't end with a crude statement urging readers to favor one candidate or another.

This post was motivated by reading a discussion among people on Tim Blair's blog trying to figure out why Obama mispronounced the town as "Wassily." I think I know the answer to that question.

I was also suggesting that in educational class, Obama is probably more like me than like Palin -- I certainly didn't say that was a good thing. Nor did I say that if someone were ignorant of Wassily that would be a good thing. It's certainly not anything that I think a President or VP SHOULD know.

I'm not at all certain, however, that Palin doesn't know either of the Wassily references. After all, if your town is named Wasilla, I would think you might notice similar names more than others would.

Jim Lindgren
9.7.2008 1:52am
Jim Hu:
Or maybe he was thinking of Stalingrad hero Vasily Zaitsev. Or he was recalling his reaction to hearing the pick "Wha? Silly!"

Or he interpolated that the town would be derived from a Russian given name, due to the history of Russian colonization on the West Coast. And he'd be almost right! From Wikipedia:
Wasilla was named after a respected local Dena'ina Indian, Chief Wasilla, whose name was derived from the Russian name 'Vasili'.
9.7.2008 2:04am
Jay Myers:

I was also suggesting that in educational class, Obama is probably more like me than like Palin

I think that you mean to say that your social class is closer to Obama's than to Palin's. Unless, of course, your (and Obama's) fields of academic study include 20th century / abstract painting and industrial design.

Boy, I can't understand where that 'elitist' meme is coming from!
9.7.2008 3:12am
SP:
The best thing about Kandinsky is that he used to be a lawyer, before he wised up. See, there's two kinds of intelligence.
9.7.2008 3:13am
Wayne Jarvis:
So you::

(1) **Speculate** that Obama has your taste in furniture; then

(2) ** Speculate** that Palin has never even heard of the furniture that you and Obama are so fond of;

Then conclude:

"I was also suggesting that in educational class, Obama is probably more like me than like Palin"

You are on a one man mission to put the "silly" back in Wasilly.

Mission accomplished.
9.7.2008 3:23am
fortyninerdweet (mail):
Since neither of you in your youth have ever competed in a beauty pageant, I'd say your observation is correct. Neither of you are obviously in Governor Palin's "class".
9.7.2008 3:47am
Anna:
Doesn't Obama have a tradition of saying the wrong town's name when he's out campaigning? Example, he was in Sunrise, FL and he said, "How's it going, Sunshine?"

Unless there are "famous" chairs named Sunshine, I'm going with my theory.
9.7.2008 3:54am
Wasilly (mail):
I'm probably in your "education class". I've never heard of this chair. I'm willing to bet that no one in my circle has heard of it either. I'll do an informal poll and verify this though.

All of that said, I see no reason to think that your theory has more validity than others that have mentioned. A clever, "accidental" slip of the tongue seems more likely, IMO, but that's just my bias showing.
9.7.2008 4:08am
Former Hyde Park resident for McCain/Palin (mail):
This post is painfully lacking in self-awareness, unless it's *so* tongue-in-cheek that I can't tell it is. Like Obama, this post simply screems POSEUR. Palin is the perfect antidote.

Occam's razor says Obama consciously or unconsciously ridiculed Wasilla.
9.7.2008 4:15am
smrad8:
I was just about to post a snarky comment about how ridiculous this post was, but Wayne Jarvis summed it up all pretty well.

I'm left to marvel at "Former Hyde Park resident's" use of "Occam's razor" and the unconscious in the same sentence. Referring to the hypothetical inner conflicts between Obama's hypothetical Id and his hypothetical Superego is anything but parsimonious, particularly since both are prescientific myths in the first place.
9.7.2008 5:16am
John Steele (mail):

I wonder if Sarah Palin even knows of the Breuer chairs or the Russian painter.

A bit pretentious today are we today? Fortunately for you and Obama we can't all be part of your "educational class", otherwise who would there be for you Hyde Park folks to feel better than.
9.7.2008 5:23am
dearieme:
Pretentious, lui?
9.7.2008 7:38am
John D.:
I wonder if Sarah Palin even knows of the Breuer chairs or the Russian painter.

That's for sure!

What a rube!

She probably doesn't know a Bauhaus from an outhouse!

And that says all you need to know about her weltanschauung.
9.7.2008 8:47am
Smokey:
To claim that Obama didn't consciously refer to Palin's hometown as "Wa-silly" is to acknowledge that Obama is a clueless dope.

Of course Obama said Wa-silly deliberately. But that's OK, it shows who he's scared of. And the ongoing discussion of Palin vs Obama -- the VP candidate vs the Presidential candidate -- raises Palin's status and erodes Obama's.

Keep it up, 0! It only diminishes your 'community organizer' experience.

I just love the ongoing, continuous discussion of Palin vs Obama.
9.7.2008 9:04am
AC (mail):
Well, darn, I think everybody here said a lot of the snarky stuff.

I was just intrigued because I would have just assumed that The One did what everyone does: get a false pronunciation in his head and be unable to shake it. See all Bush's "nuclear" and almost everyone's "Hors dourves" before they get a public correction.

What was kind of interesting to me is that The One must be so perfect that this mis-pronunciation is not human, but a coded reference to a brilliant painter and an obscure chair. Thus proving that, like Descartes, he can sit and contemplate the universe, like Einstein unifying the universe with a pencil scrap and an envelope.

-AC

PS - My parents had a chair very similar to that, bought at a garage sale in the early sixties. I'm thinking we did something very stupid when we threw that away.
9.7.2008 10:08am
erp:
Gosh, where did anybody ever get the idea that liberal Chicago lawyers are incestuous elitists whose self worth is based on recognizing obscure references to chairs when their hero mispronounces a word and sneering at the low brows who don't make the connection?

It must be great to be able to blame your vast knowledge when making a mistake, instead of your vast ignorance like the rest of us.
9.7.2008 10:37am
jccamp (mail):
It does strike me as improbable that Yale grad Bush mispronounces words because he's a dope, but Obama only misspeaks because he is thinking of his neighbors' art-cum-furniture and a Paris-based Russian ex-pat painter whose paintings "reveal themselves only progressively to those who make the effort to deepen their connection with his work".

Isn't that the same way we were are supposed to understand Obama better too? We have to fall in love before we can get him...

You ask "I wonder if Sarah Palin even knows of the Breuer chairs or the Russian painter.". I'd say that's more likely than Obama possessing the ability to, say, field dress a moose.
9.7.2008 10:53am
J Richardson:
I had never heard of Wassily - and due to a year of German would have pronounced it "VA-silly". I had heard of Wasilla, Alaska.

I guess Mencken was right - I live in the Sahara of the Bozarts. Or not.
9.7.2008 11:31am
Paolo Sepi (mail):
"I wonder if Sarah Palin even knows of the Breuer chairs or the Russian painter."

I wonder if Barack Obama knows the difference between a battle rifle and an assault rifle.

I find the former more likely. Sarah Palin did go to college, so she probably picked up some useless information there.
9.7.2008 11:40am
BillW:
I'm still wondering how well that thing works as a chair. It doesn't look at all comfortable.
9.7.2008 11:43am
James Lindgren (mail):
1. The chair is more comfortable than it looks, and it is quite solid feeling, but it gets little actual use. It's chief advantage for an occasional chair is its lack of visual bulk. The space in the room looks more open than it would with a traditional bulky chair.

2. Most commenters take this as a post critical of Palin. That was certainly not my intent and I'm surprised that people read it that way.

3. Paoli wrote:


"I wonder if Sarah Palin even knows of the Breuer chairs or the Russian painter."

I wonder if Barack Obama knows the difference between a battle rifle and an assault rifle.

I find the former more likely. Sarah Palin did go to college, so she probably picked up some useless information there.


I agree.
9.7.2008 12:28pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Maybe this was a favorite carol:

Here we come a wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a wandering
So fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you a happy New Year.
And God send you a happy New Year.
9.7.2008 12:52pm
Will Lewis (mail) (www):
Jim,

The slip of the tongue you're trying to draw is ridicusilly.
9.7.2008 1:28pm
Hoosier:
"And that says all you need to know about her weltanschauung."

I've never gotten a good look at her Weltanschauung, because she's usually beind the podium. But I bet it is SPECTACULAR.

Most GOPers don't agree with me, but I alays thought that Pelosi, when younger, has one hell of a nice Vergangenheitbewa:ltigung.

Re: The chairs--As I recall, they are very supportive, but not enough "give". Better for an office than for a family room.
9.7.2008 1:34pm
Wah-Silly:
Lindgren's opening thread protestations notwithstanding, this post shows just how trivial the political Silly Season (with or without a "Wa" in front of it) has gotten. Total waste of good electrons. Although some of the thread comments, at least, are funny.

But, in response to the reasonable question: "I wonder if Barack Obama knows the difference between a battle rifle and an assault rifle." I'm sure O-bummer would be happy to 'splain to benighted people who ask such a wah-silly question: "there is no difference. Both are dangerous assault weapons that will be banned by my administration."

And on that note, I think I'll enjoy the beautiful afternoon by being dangerous and taking my Garand and my AR-15 (as close as I can come to a true select-fire assault rifle without an NFA permit) to the range.
9.7.2008 2:28pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Hoosier wins the thread.

Nick
9.7.2008 3:33pm
AnonymousDrivel:

I wonder if Sarah Palin even knows of the Breuer chairs or the Russian painter.

I can't believe anyone would be impressed by someone who (sub)consciously imagined either. Trivia, which is what enters my mind when I acknowledge my ignorance of obscure chairs and artists, is fine, but how is this knowledge going to help my or Michelle Obama's kids?

Common sense, or a commoners sense, would defer to the wisdom of Occam (as stated by Former Hyde Park resident for McCain/Palin).
9.7.2008 3:38pm
AKD:
Meanwhile, an Iranian professor points out that the whole nation doesn't even know how to properly pronounce Palin's name:

Now, Mrs. Palin -- whose name they don't even pronounce correctly... Will she manage to attract Clinton's voters? No.


http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1843.htm
9.7.2008 6:47pm
Hoosier:
Prof. Lingren: For what it's worth-- Without fear of contradiction, I can pronounce that the most prominent Modern Art advocate/collector among our political class was . . . (drum roll)

Nelson Rockefeller.

If NY's budget in the early '70s is an indicator of what Kandinsky fans do in offcie, then I think Obama ought to run far and fast from that one; Declare his appreciation of the subtleties of Norman Rockwell, or something.
9.7.2008 6:58pm
jb (mail):
Wasilla is to Wassily as Obama is to Osama.
9.7.2008 8:33pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"I wonder if Sarah Palin even knows of the Breuer chairs or the Russian painter."

Can you tell us why you would even suggest it's important to know about Breuer chairs?
9.7.2008 9:13pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Wasilla is to Wassily as Missourah is to Missouri.
9.7.2008 11:52pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
I have two chairs that are knock-offs of the Wassily design; I got them for about $50 many years ago. The panels are vinyl rather than canvas, and are much wider than in the version illustrated, but it's otherwise the same.
9.8.2008 4:17am
Hoosier:
I say Wasilla
And you say Wasily
I say guerilla
And you say guerily

Wasilla, Wasily
Guerilla, guerily

Let's call the whole thing off!
9.9.2008 12:56am
james (mail):
Helen, right click and then save as:

9.9.2008 1:29pm
james (mail):
Right click then save as :

here
9.9.2008 1:31pm