America / Pop Culture

“Americans are surely the maestros of reappropriation”

…Americans are surely the maestros of reappropriation. Conservatives turned the phrase “vast right-wing conspiracy” from an accusation to a punch line. Liberals turned “Obamacare” from a sneer to an endorsement.

Pop stars like Madonna and Britney Spears made “bitch” a compliment. “Redneck” has a hint of pride these days, thanks largely to Southern comedians like Jeff Foxworthy who made it a touchstone of their identities and routines. Soon after Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” during a debate, the phrase began appearing on her supporters’ T-shirts.

In short, reappropriation is an American specialty — a rhetorical stratagem practiced even before the Declaration of Independence was signed.

David Segal, “That Diss Song Known As ‘Yankee Doodle’”, The New York Times (2 July 2017), SR6.