Another Obama appointment, another kabuki metaphor

This time it’s Elena Kagan, this time the culprit is Colorado Law professor Paul Campos speaking on NPR, this time it’s a “ritual,” and as always we are here to call them on it.

I think that to the extent that it’s possible to eventually support this nomination, it has to be based on her answering real substantive questions in the confirmation process instead of going through this kind of kabuki ritual of dodging those kinds of questions, which is what nominees have so successfully done for the past 20 years.

This is, of course, the same metaphor that Joe Biden used in the context of the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, as blogged about on MFT before.

And so I will say it again: if you’re going to compare Washington to any sort of Japanese theater, you’re probably best off comparing it to bunraku.

10 thoughts on “Another Obama appointment, another kabuki metaphor”

  1. Is kabuki proper as an adjective? Even if it is, it should always be attached to ‘theatre’, but it does not fulfil the generic ‘form without substance’ adjective that the author intends — which is retardely Tom Friedman-esque, like saying ‘we were herded on to a plane where we hunted for food’ (name me one herd animal that hunts!). So this particular use of kabuki sounds like a grammar/English fail to boot.

  2. I Googled kabuki-teki out of curiosity and it seems like it is only used to describe specific types of stage performance and a particular stream of Japanese popular culture. There is also Kabuki-CHO-teki, which I take it describes a place that smells like tears and urine.

  3. “a place that smells like tears and urine”

    Oh, so you’ve been to Washington DC then?

  4. Haven’t actually.

    Although I imagine –

    Washington DC – tears, urine, shoe polish, napalm.
    Kabuki-cho – tears, urine, sticky Don Peri on the floor, Nigerian touts.

  5. Does a foreign loan word have to keep its exact meaning? For example “challenge” in katakana does not mean the exact same as challenge in regular English.

  6. Hoofin, I think you answered your own question.

    This bring up a scary possibility – what if some Japanese commentator notices the kabuki trend and *re-imports* the usage to Japan?

  7. Hoofin, most “loan” words are in that sense “non-performing loan” words. (And the bane of interpreting from Japanese to English, according to at least one person I know.)

    Adamu, you mean カブキ in katakana? That would be awesome. The death knell of the Japanese language.

  8. There are some actual examples of re-importing Japanese to Japan: サムライ債 and ショウグン債 come to mind.

  9. “Mrs. Watanabe” is another example, but all of these have fairly narrow usage in the bond and currency markets.

    It would be cooler if some word that the West (read: America) has mangled for years–like “hari-kari”, “kama-kazee”, or “skosh”–could return to Japan with its slightly warped new pronunciation and meaning.

    In other news, James Bond apparently sucked at haiku. (Now we’re waaay off topic.)

  10. I’ve seen the drink kamikaze in Japanese bars. Can’t remember how they rendered it in katakana.

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