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Don’t Kanye Me!

A successful eponym moves beyond the award-show scene. By now, the 2010 Oscars are long-gone, as the ravenous celebuworld...



A successful eponym moves beyond the award-show scene.


By now, the 2010 Oscars are long-gone, as the ravenous celebuworld moves on to fresh meat. Still, who can forget the microphone struggle that ensued after Music for Prudence took the award for Best Documentary Short, as Elinor Burkett abruptly interrupted co-director Roger Ross Williams, snatching the microphone away from her collaborator. Kindergartners who can't play well with others instantly felt a little better about themselves.

Soon after, writers on Twitter and across the known universe recalled a 2009 eponym that was born at the Video Music Awards, when Kanye West anointed himself the patron celebrity of upstaging-via-microphone-grabbing, as he cut off Taylor Swift with the now-immortal words, "Imma let you finish, but...." That's when "Kanyed" first began to mean, as Staci Layne Wilson puts it, "To get interrupted by a self-absorbed jerk during a moment of glory."

As the Burkett-Williams incident unfolded, the reaction of tweeters was swift, humorous, and well-informed by this recent piece of pop culture lore: "Who is this woman!?! And why is she Kanye-ing this dude? I think he was doing fine. If you're going to Kanye an award, do it right" (March 7, Nate Brennan). Though one writer referred to it as only a "semi-Kanye-ing," the spontaneous consensus was that Burkett went full Kanye.

The following days reinforced the success of the term as well as its variations. The most common form seems to be "Kanyed" and "Kanye-ing" but "doing a Kanye," "pulling a Kanye," "going Kanye," and "Kanye moment" are used as well. Newly appointed New York Times On Language columnist Ben Zimmer documented the term's history while providing a chart of its spiking use, while tweeter Anila Dittakavi might have said it best: "I love that 'Kanyed' is a legitimate word now."

With the Oscars, the MTV VMAs, the Emmys, the Grammys, and the What-have-yous always forthcoming, there will be no lack of opportunities for future glory-hogs to Kanye their costars. But what I think is interesting-and shows a potential for far greater word success-is that people are using "Kanye" for thunder-stealing moments that go well beyond the award-show world.

Folks are giving each other advice such as, "...don't get Kanyed when you give that speech....hehehehehehe" (March 11, 2010, vegangymmie). Even innocent events such as a birthday party could be the scene of a Kanye-ing: "Happy Bday Mom.! -Just Got Home From Take My Mom Out To Eat.I Felt Kanyed When She Interrupted Me Singin' Happy Bday.Lol" (March 12, 2010, Krysco Wilson). Twitter itself might pull a Kanye when it cuts off a tweeter: "@deongordon I have been #kanyed by @Twitter it doesn't let me tweet, it always says that it will let me finish but... (March 10, 2010, Joselin Mane).

Those examples fit into the "all fun and games" department, but if we've learned anything from Dilbert and The Office, it's that the workplace is fraught with petty drama-and numerous opportunities for Kanye-ing. Fortunately, Staci Layne Wilson provided extensive advice on "How to keep from getting Kanyed on the job," such as: "While there are various levels of getting Kanyed, it all boils down to one thing: Somebody stealing your thunder or somehow undermining you in front of others. I remember once when I was getting a verbal assignment from my boss, an overzealous new coworker covertly Kanyed me by whipping out a notepad and studiously writing down the instructions. The way I dealt with it was to do the same thing whenever she was given a task, and she got the message without my having to say a word."

I'm sure Kanye West himself is a bit bummed about his shameful place in the dictionary, but compared to other eponym-inspirers, he has little to complain about. Charles Boycott was the victim of the first boycott, yet boycotts took his name. St. Audrey-whose name spread to St. Audrey laces before mutating into the word "tawdry," was not an especially tawdry saint. Theologian John Duns Scots was no dunce, but his followers the Dunsmen got a reputation as hair-splitting pinheads, and soon "Duns" morphed into "dunce." The dictionary can be the cruelest book of all.

At least Kanye-based on comments like "I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade, I will be the loudest voice" and his own Kanye-ing-has earned his jackass status. In the end, Kanye Kanye'd himself.




















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