1 of 6
1
MacDonald’s breaking new linguistic ground????? 
Posted: 11 December 2012 08:28 PM   [ Ignore ]
Rank
Total Posts:  22
Joined  2012-12-11

Hi! Recently, I heard (in the United States) a MacDonald’s radio commercial (I believe it was MacDonald’s, anyway) in which a youngish-sounding man is imitating a British accent because he wants to be taken “more seriously”, and in the course of his conversation with a similar-aged woman, the latter also adopts a British accent (both accents are done realistically poorly, in just the inept way most Americans do British accents). Near the end of the commercial, the woman says to the man, “I tip my tiny hat to you” and he responds, with “And I tip my tiny hat to you”, and then she back to him, “I tip my tiny hat to you”, in an increasingly frenzied manner.  And I nearly tip my orange juice into my lap, so transfixed am I by this exchange of TINY hat tippings!!!!!

Tiny hat??  What on earth?---Why tiny????  What does this mean?  Where does this come from?  What implications or innuendos does it have?  How strange a punchline or climax for a commercial to have!!!

My brief internet sleuthing led me to absolutely nothing, so in desperation I turned here. I await the comments of the Masters!!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 December 2012 09:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  332
Joined  2007-02-13

Tiny Hat Competition was the subject of an SNL sketch on American TV a few years ago.  I think I recall seeing it and thinking it was annoying and unfunny.  If McDonald’s has taken a concept from an annoying, failed SNL sketch and turned it into an annoying (i.e., successful) radio spot, then I tip my tiny hat to them.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 December 2012 04:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4654
Joined  2007-01-03

Googling the phrase pops up enough hits from Twitter and the like to show that people actually do use the phrase. Not a lot of people using it, but about the number you’d expect from a failed SNL sketch. So the McDonald’s commercial doesn’t appear to be very original. (In addition to sounding really annoying.)

I can see the utility of the phrase. It’s in the class of “that’s the sound of the world’s smallest violin playing for you.” (I’m not saying I like it, just that I can see occasions where people might want to use it, even if they shouldn’t.)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 December 2012 02:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Rank
Total Posts:  22
Joined  2012-12-11

Dave, regarding your “world’s smallest violin” hypothesis: given the meager context I provided, I salute you for an astute analysis, except..........

Well, first let me make explicit what you’re suggesting.  One might playfully invoke the “that’s the sound of the world’s smallest violin” gambit when someone is a little self-indulgently making a plea for sympathy and you are saying, “Sorry, but I don’t feel sorry for you.” So, by analogy, you’re suggesting that “I tip my tiny hat to you” would be a mischievous rejection of someone’s bid for admiration.  A very reasonable inference on your part but is it in fact correct?  Let’s look at the evidence.

First, my vague recollection of the commercial is that there was no sarcastic or ironic tone.  But I, with you agreeing I’m sure, don’t for a second consider my foggy recall “evidence”.  So I went online to see how people in the real world are using this phrase, and sought examples with plenty of context.  Here are a couple of representative ones.

The first is from a company’s blog, where they’d been making job offers and displaying a remarkable degree of transparency in explaining how they would evaluate applicants.  Quite a few people commented about this transparency, and here’s the relevant one for our purposes:

“What else can I say that the other posters/candidates haven’t already expressed…
...oh yes, your company should be the ‘poster’ company by setting the hiring process back to the personal level of what each individual can bring to the company by getting to know a bit about them. My husband has not been able to find employment for over a year. Why? It sure isn’t because he isn’t a hard worker who thrives on knowledge, is a Veteran after serving our country for 14 years, has worked in the IT/networking field for the past 12+ years, has learned by research & hands-on!....(Omitting)...... But has he even had 1 call back? One interview? Or even a courtesy email of rejection? No, nothing, nada, zip, zilch... 
So Mr. Bart Lorang & FullContact ‘I tip my tiny hat to you’! At least one company out there knows good manners!
Have an awesome & inspiring day! “

So Dave, that first example is clear:  No “smallest violin” irony here!!  The woman is passionate, in fact is gushing in her admiration of the company.

Here’s a second example, which is a blogger describing a camping adventure he was on as he wrote the post:

“After Fort Stevens we packed up the rigs and headed for Cape Lookout State Park which was our camping destination for the night.  As I sit here at Cape Lookout typing this…..without wifi……I can hear the waves crashing to the shore. It’s a pretty surreal sound and feeling.  I really wish Brooke and Chad could have been here with us to enjoy the sunset on a windless beach and have a fire.  I miss you guys and I tip my tiny hat to you! “

Again, Dave, I have the unmistakable sense of sincere appreciation and affection, and no rebuff, playful or otherwise.

So, if the evidence is against your hypothesis Dave, can I devise a more plausible one of my own?  Here it is, I leave it to you to judge the plausibility.

I think it’s a humorous pre-emptive strike against a potential humorous objection—Person A wants to express genuine admiration for Person B using the “tipping the hat” convention, but he realizes Person B might jokingly object since Person A isn’t actually wearing a hat.  So Person A kiddingly indicates that the hat he’s tipping is one so tiny Person B probably can’t even see it.

What do you think?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 December 2012 10:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  349
Joined  2012-01-10

I think that the expression, “I tip my tiny hat to you” is “ironic” only in the sense that hipsters use the term “ironic”, that is, the speaker is using the term with an ironic wink at the expression itself.  The admiration expressed is sincere, or, at least it is as sincere as anything can be when said by a hipster who uses expressions for their kitsch value.

My best guess is that the term is derived from the SNL tiny hat skit.  That particular phrase is not used in the skit, but the tiny hat champion does, at one point, somewhat dramatically state, “I tip my hat to you” while wearing an absurdly tiny hat.  However, ironically (in a different sense of “irony") if people quoted the skit verbatim (I tip my hat to you) it would not be clear that they were referencing that skit.  So the quote was paraphrased (intentionally or not) into, “I tip my tiny hat to you, sir.” To use an analogy, Captain Kirk purportedly never said, “Beam me up, Scotty,” and actually said things like, “Two to beam up, Mr. Scott.” But “Beam me up, Scotty” functions better as a pop-culture reference even though it isn’t an actual quote from the show, as only the most die-hard of fans would know what you were on about if you said, “One to beam up, Mr. Scott.”

Why anybody thought it would be a good idea to drop a rather obscure pop culture reference (via a phrase that has acquired only minimal traction) into a McDonald’s ad is more of a mystery.  Perhaps it’s part of a new effort to grab the hipster market.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 December 2012 05:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Rank
Total Posts:  22
Joined  2012-12-11

Svinyard118, I enjoyed your comment very much and as a result of a)reading it, and b)doing a little further research of my own, I’ve concluded you are almost certainly correct in believing that the appearance of the phrase “I tip my tiny hat to you” in the population at large stems from the SNL sketch. But there are a number of interesting wrinkles I want to remark on.

Although jtab4994 was the first to mention a possible role for the SNL tiny hats skit in the eventual use in the MacDonald’s commercial (good catch jtab4994!), he didn’t explicitly say that the phrase “I tip my hat to you” was used in the SNL bit, so I wasn’t convinced that there was a connection.  When you, svinyard118, asserted that it was in fact employed, I felt irresistibly impelled to find that sketch (an easy matter for anyone, just google “tiny hats saturday night live” and you can watch it on Hulu and several other places) and verify it.  And yes, svinyard, you are infallible!!!  I did indeed confirm that it was used—and you are, further, entirely correct that, of course, anyone wanting to reference the sketch would have to insert the word “tiny”, not in the original, in order to be understood as alluding to it.  I liked your “Beam me up, Scotty” analogy, which is like “Play it again, Sam”, a line never actually uttered in Casablanca, but one which makes the reference to the movie clearer to the uninitiated.  (By the way, svinyard118, this sort of alteration of the original to make the cultural reference more obvious can take a turn that actually causes if not physical violence at least some ugly epithets.  Here in New York City, the Yankees, unlike almost all baseball teams, do NOT put the names of the players on their uniforms, only their numbers.  So, if someone wants to buy and wear the jersey of their favorite Yankee, usually Derek Jeter, they have a huge decision to make:  do I buy an “authentic” jersey with only the number “2”, or do I buy one which, contrary to reality, also bears the name “Jeter”, in order to have even non-baseball fans grasp that I’m wearing Jeter’s jersey, the better to bask in the halo of affection and respect accorded Jeter.  Many choose the latter course, and baseball purists are (amazingly to me) actually incensed by this, and will sometimes abuse those who elect to wear the jerseys with the Yankee names.  Explaining exactly why they become so infuriated is beyond the limits of this comment--and frankly beyond the limits of my psychological insight.)

What’s interesting about the actual 3 minute SNL sketch is that it doesn’t involve a tiny hat “competition” exactly, but four very wealthy society-women who meet for lunch each week in an elegant restaurant.  One of the four is a trend-setter, and another of the four is a trend-setter manque (imagine an accent aigu over that final e), and the sketch revolves around the latter being repeatedly frustrated in her attempts to out-do the fashion icon at her table.  And the style that the fashion icon is pioneering here is wearing tiny hats.  So svinyard118, at first blush it would appear that a viewer of this sketch on SNL later referencing it by saying “I tip my tiny hat to you” isn’t simply a case of someone being “with it” by making a cultural reference (like referring to “Beam me up Scotty”) but being “with it” by making a reference to something symbolizing being “with it” (or beyond being “with it” and being truly avant-garde).  And it actually goes a major step further, since the moment in the sketch where “I tip my hat to you” occurs is one where the trend-setter manque has herself donned a tiny hat, and the trend-setter says to her, “I tip my hat to you”, as though saluting her, but in the process of tipping her tiny hat she reveals an even tinier hat underneath!!  So it’s a mock salute, after all, as she ends by one-upping the other woman.

But one thing is clear to me:  everything I just said about the context, and hence the true interpretation, of “I tip my (tiny) hat to you” is COMPLETELY ABSENT from the usage by people in the real world, as illustrated by the examples I gave in my previous comment.  All the current user of “I tip my tiny hat to you” is doing is trying to indicate appreciation of someone while making a cute cultural reference at the same time.  But is that loss of nuance (in this case, it’s more than a loss of nuance, it’s really a loss of most of the meaning the phrase had in the original sketch) surprising?  The history of language is really one of ordinary people completely failing to grasp the true meaning of things.  I’ve only just come to this site in the past couple of days, so I haven’t had a chance to explore previous threads, but I imagine the saga of, for example, the phrase “beg the question” has occupied a prominent position and many lamentations.  It’s illustrative of even intelligent people’s inability to grasp the most obvious distinctions.  So the fact that the use of “I tip my tiny hat to you” can simultaneously be inspired by the SNL sketch yet ignore its meaning in the SNL sketch is not at all surprising to me.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 December 2012 09:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  710
Joined  2007-02-07

Why tiny????  What does this mean?

It’s an advert. It doesn’t have to mean anything, because it’s purpose is to make you laugh and feel good and to associate that feeling with McDonald’s. It doesn’t need cultural references, you just need to smile when you hear the commercial. You don’t even need to understand the language. If the tone of the voices sounds like people enjoying themselves in some way and you understand that McDonald’s is somehow involved with that enjoyment, then the commercial is a success.

Since the commercial doesn’t make you smile, you’re not the target audience. No commercial appeals to everyone.

If I were searching for references, I would think for most ad agency types in America, Monty Python is more likely to serve as an inspiration for people with British accents saying things that are silly in a smart and hip way and honestly, I have friends that come up with this kind of off the wall stuff all the time. You hear some truly funny “where the hell did that come from?"stuff in dive bars, trust me.

I think it’s just as likely that somebody in the ad agency pulled it out of thin air or heard someone say it somewhere and remembered it, as it is that the idea came from a skit on SNL.

I’ve never heard the commercial nor encountered the phrase in the wild, but I get it. It’s a lighthearted way to be either sincere or sarcastic, depending on circumstances.

I tip my tiny hat to you for bringing it to my attention!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 December 2012 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3447
Joined  2007-01-29

I imagine the saga of, for example, the phrase “beg the question” has occupied a prominent position and many lamentations.  It’s illustrative of even intelligent people’s inability to grasp the most obvious distinctions.

If by that you mean what I suspect you mean, you’re wrong.  “Beg the question” means what the overwhelming majority of English speakers use it to mean, namely “raise the question.” A tiny minority of English speakers, for reasons that are frankly beyond the limits of my psychological insight, feel compelled to insist, fervently and repeatedly, on a supposed “real” meaning which is better expressed by the phrase petitio principii, which is known to all those with a professional need for the concept, incapable of being misinterpreted, and in no danger of having its meaning altered by the hoi polloi.  (N.b.: If you object to the phrase “the hoi polloi,” I have another lecture for you!)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 December 2012 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3026
Joined  2007-02-26

STERN LECTURE LINGUISTS
I TOLD YOU NOT TO FLUSH THAT

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 December 2012 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Rank
Total Posts:  22
Joined  2012-12-11

Yikes!  Languagehat, your rebuke has (momentarily) left me breathless, reduced from meaningful sentences to mere exclamations! 

When I strolled in here a couple of days ago in search of an answer to a rather silly question, I had no idea I was entering Festung Non-Prescriptiva, where the mildest expression of regret at the loss of useful words and phrases is met by lethal force.

After I tucked my shirt back in, smoothed my disheveled hair, and generally regained my composure following the assault of your comment (and the additional “lecture” you linked to), I decided I’d better take a quick tour of other threads, not for linguistic reasons, but rather sociological ones.

My most enlightening moment came in reading Dave’s current “hyphen” thread, where your founder, perhaps thoughtlessly, employed the words “misused” and “proper” and was immediately taken to task by the Cultural Revolutionaries of the site for “prescriptivism”.  He had to quickly proclaim that it was only with respect to punctuation and spelling that he was “a bit” prescriptivist, in order not to be declared persona non grata.  My reaction?  When the very founder of a site is instantly targeted for “transgressions”, one is dealing with the most rigidly-enforced orthodoxy!!!

First, I have to acknowledge I haven’t given this issue serious analysis before this moment.  Unlike you, languagehat, I admit to being a casual observer of linguistics—you’d consider me the merest dabbler.  Just from reading your hoi-polloi-triggered fusillade (which, by the way, I considered well argued and very entertainingly written) I recognize that you have immersed yourself very deeply in your subject.

However, I don’t think my status as mere dabbler means that my point of view—which is that words and phrases (especially, though not exclusively, very useful ones) should be preserved, if possible, with their meanings intact, and if the majority insists otherwise through their continued “new” usage, then it’s not unacceptably “elitist” to spend a moment lamenting that fact—has no standing, and should not even be allowed as a subject for discussion.

I have two justifications for my perspective.

First, with my background in science and mathematics (where, I think even you, languagehat, would agree, ascribing a fixed and precise meaning to terms is absolutely essential) I am aware of the potentially catastrophic consequences of different people using the same term but with different meanings for each.  But even outside these fields, among the general population, awkward, painful, embarrassing and sometimes tragic misunderstandings occur because of the different meanings people ascribe to the same words and phrases.  In reading Dave’s defense of himself in the hyphen debate he says that “rigorous rules should be enforced” with regard to spelling and punctuation because “deviating from the expected forms only leads to difficulties”.  But can anyone seriously claim to be confused because an en dash was used in place of a hyphen?  And is it really indispensable that “indispensable” be spelled “indispensable” and not “indispensible”????  “Difficulties”, Dave? However, when two people use the same word intending different meanings, even just connotatively different ones, genuine and sometimes heart-breaking difficulties really can and do occur.  Languagehat, I need only ask that you consider all of history, or your own life, where you’ll find countless examples of terrible situations occurring because person A said something he considered entirely innocuous and person B accorded a different meaning to a single word of A’s, and thus extracted a radically different meaning from what A said.  The consequences?  Maybe hurt feelings, maybe violent rage, maybe (if you’re living in the US) a fatal gunshot.  If you challenge me for specific examples, languagehat, I welcome it, because they are plentiful!!  Now it’s true that eventually the change to the “new” meaning will be complete, and everyone will use it, and there will be no further misunderstandings with that word or phrase.  But during the many years before the transformation is finalized???? 

Nothing, of course, will stop people from modifying the meaning of words, usually because they haven’t paid close attention to the current usage, but your attitude, languagehat, appears to be ,”So much the better”, and mine is to lament the fact.

My second justification is simply that there are useful expressions that have no exact equivalent elsewhere in the English language and to allow that unique meaning to be lost because the expression starts commonly being used in broader circumstances is just a sad impoverishment.

There, I’ve said the verboten!  I await being sent to the re-education camp!!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 December 2012 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1365
Joined  2007-01-29

Nothing, of course, will stop people from modifying the meaning of words, usually because they haven’t paid close attention to the current usage, but your attitude, languagehat, appears to be ,”So much the better”, and mine is to lament the fact.

My second justification is simply that there are useful expressions that have no exact equivalent elsewhere in the English language and to allow that unique meaning to be lost because the expression starts commonly being used in broader circumstances is just a sad impoverishment.

Lh can and will speak for himself, but I think the consensus of most of us here is that all living languages are constantly evolving, whether we like it or not.  It’s neither good nor bad, it’s just natural progression.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 December 2012 04:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4654
Joined  2007-01-03

When the very founder of a site is instantly targeted for “transgressions”, one is dealing with the most rigidly-enforced orthodoxy!!!

Nice rhetorical move. The one advocating rigid orthodoxy starts applying that term to those who espouse freedom of expression. I’m sure a good job awaits you at Minitrue.

Seriously, “prescriptivism” is based on a false notion of language, that dialects exists in some pure, “true” form, encapsulated in the following:

The history of language is really one of ordinary people completely failing to grasp the true meaning of things.

But language is not like that. It is the original crowd-sourced creation. There is no ultimate “true” or “right,” there is only what is convention and what is not, and conventions are subject to change. Always have been, always will. And much of the beauty of language is in the changes. We celebrate Shakespeare and other great authors because they do new and original things with language. To lament language change is like lamenting the grains of sand lost to the tide and then replaced by different ones. I normally do not advocate reading Strunk and White (or any similarly creaky and antiquated style guide), but I seriously suggest you do, especially the chapter on commonly misused words. Tell me how many of the “misuses” they opined against sixty years ago even register as a problem today. If you’re like most people, you’ll find that chapter confusing because you won’t understand what they’re yammering on about.

The argument that without prescriptivist rules we won’t be able to understand one another is fallacious. Give me one example of a “misuse” of beg the question that ever resulted in a misunderstanding. If anything, it is the use of the technical sense that causes misunderstanding because it is arcane, yet it sounds familiar and obvious. Petitio principii is a superior phrase because it cannot be confused with anything else. If someone does not recognize it, they realize that they do not recognize it and do not attempt to interpret it by using the common meanings of the words in the phrase. Virtually none of the examples that prescriptivists rail on about ever result in miscommunication.

I will only briefly mention that virtually all most prescriptivist objections arise out of one of two emotional reactions: 1) a dislike of change, of anything new; 2) a desire to set oneself and one’s small clique of insiders above the rabble who don’t know any better.

And since you involuntarily conscripted me into your militia, let me make clear my position on orthodoxy in spelling and punctuation, which is not a new position but a distinction that I’ve long maintained in discussions on this site. My call for orthodoxy in this narrow arena is based on the difference between speech and writing and reading. Speech, and with it grammar and syntax, is natural to humans. Children learn it automatically with no need for instruction, and as a species we have been speaking for something on the order of 150,000 years. Reading and writing, on the other hand, are unnatural. It’s not something we do easily, and children need to be taught how to read and write. And it’s new; we’ve only been doing it for about 5,000 years. If you use unconventional spelling or punctuation, you disrupt the reader’s flow, causing her to pause at the point of disruption, consciously determine what is meant, and then proceed. I never claimed that most misspellings or punctuation errors result in miscommunication. They only make the unnatural act of reading more onerous. And I don’t have a problem with spelling and punctuation conventions changing or the presence of multiple conventions (as in differences between British and American spellings). The point is that there is a convention that once recognized can be adapted to.

Finally, it’s considered bad form on the internet to barge into existing communities and start hurling ad hominems about, at least without lurking for a while and reading what has been said in the past in order to get a lay of the land. I’m not saying you shouldn’t express your opinion, but comparing people who disagree with you on finer points of language usage to one of the worst, mass-murdering regimes in history isn’t exactly the best way to ingratiate yourself with the community, even if done in jest as you obviously were doing here.

[ Edited: 15 December 2012 07:21 AM by Dave Wilton ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 December 2012 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3447
Joined  2007-01-29

if the majority insists otherwise through their continued “new” usage, then it’s not unacceptably “elitist” to spend a moment lamenting that fact

Of course not—I do it all the time!  I can’t find it at the moment, but I had a LH post some years ago explaining that although the scientific/linguistic part of my brain accepts language change as inevitable and necessary, the irrational/nostalgic part of it can’t help being bothered by it; I’ll never get used to people saying “may have” for nonfactuals (where I would say “might have"), and while I’ve come to terms with “disinterested” being used for “uninterested,” I’ll never use it that way myself.  I have no problem with people lamenting the new, only with their mistaking their personal reactions for some sort of universal truth.

I think the consensus of most of us here is that all living languages are constantly evolving, whether we like it or not.  It’s neither good nor bad, it’s just natural progression.

Listen to Eliza: she is wise.

Also, sorry if I sounded brusque; as anyone around here will tell you, I am cranky and sometimes come off sounding harsher than I intended.  But my bark is worse than my bite, and I issue you a hearty welcome to the forum!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 December 2012 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4654
Joined  2007-01-03

I have a similar reaction to impactful. I bristle every time I hear it. I don’t like it, and I can’t bring myself to use it. But I also recognize that it is a very useful adjective that succinctly conveys connotations that substitutes like effective lack.

You don’t have to cheer every change or even use it yourself. Just don’t take the stance that just because you don’t like it, that it is bad.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 December 2012 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  349
Joined  2012-01-10

And even if language change is “bad” (in the sense that a useful word or a useful distinction has been lost) it still isn’t “wrong” for a modern user of the language to use it the way it is modernly used, and it is wrong-headed to criticize those who use it that way.  I would also note that you might be surprised at just how often a seemingly recent language change is anything but recent, as the historical evidence may show it to be far older than you would have imagined, and the “wrong” use(s) may even turn out to predate the ones you feel are natural and proper.  That isn’t true of the specific phrase “beg the question” (although the history of how that particular phrase emerged is rather interesting), but it has been true of many words and phrases, at least for me.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 December 2012 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1161
Joined  2007-02-14

And if some distinction is lost it will be replaced if it is really all that useful.  Back in the day the word for the season we call Spring was Lent.  That term got pre-empted by the religious sense of the period before Easter and we lost a distinct term for what we now call Spring.  We made do with the term Summer* to cover both Spring and Summer before we came up with the term Spring.

*See the song “Sumer is icumen in”, a song obviously about Spring.

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 6
1