Saturday, December 03, 2011

Slandering My Good Name

My name, of course, being "Frug". It's a name of Russian-Jewish extraction -- my paternal grandfather used to say that we were related to the Yiddish poet Simon Frug (1860 - 1916)*, although my father doubts this, and I have no hard evidence either way. As far as I know, every Frug in the western hemisphere (a small number) is related to me, some quite distantly of course.

Now, the other famous meaning of "frug" is in reference to the 60s dance craze of The Frug. For all practical purposes, the dance hasn't been done by anyone in half a century, but it comes up from time to time in popular culture -- the most prominent case, I suppose, being the Rilo Kiley song "The Frug". But other references -- often in the gerund form, "frugging" -- pop up from time to time. Wikipedia's entry on the dance has a lengthy list of them (at least as of now, until some pompous, killjoy editor decides the list lacks importance). I've previously mentioned that the late writer Thomas M. Disch told me he wrote a pseudonymous story called "If You Don't Frug Baby Then What Do You Do?" which he described as the worst thing he'd ever written.

So: a forgotten (and seemingly bad*) poet, and a forgotten (and seemingly silly) dance craze. And my family. I can live with that.

But then, earlier this week, I read the following (via):
According to complaints on consumer-focused Web sites, some American Solutions calls begin with slanted polling questions before proceeding to a request for money. The tactic, known as "fundraising under the guise of research," or frugging, is discouraged as unethical by trade groups such as the Marketing Research Association. (emphasis mine)
"Frugging" a slimy fundraising tactic! Aghast! I've been slandered!!

Ah, but it gets worse. Trying to dig a bit into this usage, I stumbled upon the entry for "Frug" in Urban Dictionary. There are references to the dance, of course, and references to the words as short for "frugal" (I've heard that one before too -- I believe the Frugal Gourmet is called "The Frug"), but then there's also this:
2. fat, retarded, ugly.
3a. A person who is extremely tight-fisted with money. Considered cheap, miserly, penny-pinching, selfish. Always has a negative connotation - thrifty would not be a synonym.
4. An exclamation used exclusively when you've accidentally just agreed to go on a date with someone that you consider to be repugnant.***
...and a few more which are even more obscure or odd and which frankly I doubt have ever been used in human speech.

Trying to come up with an appropriate response to these vile slanders, I am reminded of a quote from an old episode of the TV show Babylon 5 (of which I was, at one time, a great fan):
I don't know who's been saying these things but I want you to know when we get back I am gonna sue somebody! I don't know how -- and I don't know who -- but by God I am gonna sue somebody!

-- Lyta Alexander, in "Between the Darkness and the Light", by J. Michael Straczynski

* I've read a handful of his poems in translation, and they're all pretty bad. It's hard to know in translation of course -- it's possible the originals were better -- but the one person I've ever run into to read Frug in the original** confirmed to me that no, he was, in fact, simply a bad poet.

** A rabbi at my school (he was, much later, to read the Ketubah at my wedding) who, upon being first introduced to me, exclaimed "Frug! Famous name! Famous Yiddish poet!" and then walked around introducing me to people as "Stephen FRUG" the way one might say "Stephen WHITMAN" or something, which puzzled everyone else in the room since, as with the great mass of humanity (even the great mass of Jews) none of them had ever heard of the poet.

*** I have to admit that this notion -- accidentally agreeing to go on a date -- is so bizarre and amusing that I'm almost willing to forgive someone for ascribing a bad version of it to my name. (Almost.) It's a hard scenario to imagine; here's the sample dialogue from the Urban Dictionary entry:
Other person: "Hey, so, uh, what are you doing this Saturday night?"
You: "Oh, nothing much. Going to Coffee Shop X to study, probably."
Other person: "See you there!"
You: "Frug!"

No comments: