This article draws from George Lakoff’s provocative proposal to rename Donald J. Trump to discuss the sound symbolism, social recognition, and symbolic power of proper names. It focuses in particular on the relationship between the sociolinguistic and political function of proper names to advance a three-part argument. First, I argue that in denoting without connoting proper names fix the identity of a referent regardless of its changing properties—a linguistic function that is particularly useful to the governmental techniques of the modern nation state. Such rigidity is also essential to the performative capacity of political leaders to act upon the social world through the institutions that are constituted in them and by them. Second, I examine the case of collective pseudonyms such as Ned Ludd, Luther Blissett, and Anonymomus, which have been introduced at different historical turns to pursue a variety of objectives. Although they retain the formal features of a proper name, in denoting without identifying, and representing that which eludes representation, these improper names allow different social groups to exert a form of symbolic power outside the boundary of an institutional practice. Third, the article suggests a way to bring together the symbolic power of proper and improper names through a campaign to replicate and disseminate the Trump name. Besides reversing the unconscious sound symbolism of the Trump name, such campaign would reveal the tautological nature of institutional symbolic power.

‘I am the Donald.’ On the sound symbolism and symbolic power of powerful names

Deseriis M
2017-01-01

Abstract

This article draws from George Lakoff’s provocative proposal to rename Donald J. Trump to discuss the sound symbolism, social recognition, and symbolic power of proper names. It focuses in particular on the relationship between the sociolinguistic and political function of proper names to advance a three-part argument. First, I argue that in denoting without connoting proper names fix the identity of a referent regardless of its changing properties—a linguistic function that is particularly useful to the governmental techniques of the modern nation state. Such rigidity is also essential to the performative capacity of political leaders to act upon the social world through the institutions that are constituted in them and by them. Second, I examine the case of collective pseudonyms such as Ned Ludd, Luther Blissett, and Anonymomus, which have been introduced at different historical turns to pursue a variety of objectives. Although they retain the formal features of a proper name, in denoting without identifying, and representing that which eludes representation, these improper names allow different social groups to exert a form of symbolic power outside the boundary of an institutional practice. Third, the article suggests a way to bring together the symbolic power of proper and improper names through a campaign to replicate and disseminate the Trump name. Besides reversing the unconscious sound symbolism of the Trump name, such campaign would reveal the tautological nature of institutional symbolic power.
Settore SPS/08 - Sociologia dei Processi Culturali e Comunicativi
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
I am the Donald.pdf

Accesso chiuso

Tipologia: Published version
Licenza: Non pubblico
Dimensione 3.22 MB
Formato Adobe PDF
3.22 MB Adobe PDF   Visualizza/Apri   Richiedi una copia
performance_research_deseriis_OA.pdf

accesso aperto

Tipologia: Accepted version (post-print)
Licenza: Sola lettura
Dimensione 148.67 kB
Formato Adobe PDF
148.67 kB Adobe PDF Visualizza/Apri

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11384/79596
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus 0
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? 0
social impact