It took me some time to sort out the humor behind Mrs. Obama’s recent “turn-up (= turnip)-for-what” food pun. Of course, there was no problem with my establishing the phonetic similarity between the words 2014-10-19MichelleObama‘turnip” (which the First Lady was holding in her hands) and “turn up.” However, as an ignorant non-American, I had to search the Internet for  Mrs. Obama’s initiative to get kids eating more green, then to find out some info about a Barack Obama impersonator Iman Crosson, who had asked Mrs. Obama the tricky question “How many calories do you burn every time you turn up?!” After that I found a slangy meaning of “turn up” in the Urban Dictionary, and understood that the concept of “turning up” has generally positive connotations in teenagers’ speech, while “turning down” is the opposite of “turning up”, and that the common answer, among teenagers, to the question “Turn down for what?” will be “For nothing.” Finally, I watched D.J.Snake and Lil Jon’s musical clip “Turn Down for What?” In the long run I understood that Michelle Obama had capitalized on Iman Crosson’s usage of “turn up”, associating it with the “turnip” she had advertised as healthy eating, and that at the same time she wittily snubbed her husband’s impersonator for his provocative question by transforming the key word of the musical clip into the opposite (“turn down”).

What I have NOT understood was why the clip ( is popular – so popular that even the First Lady made use of it.

2014-10-19LyudmilaYanukovichI also imagined my American counterpart – a retired Slavic lexicologist – wracking his brains over the former Ukrainian President’s wife’s phrase “Batya, ya starayus’” (“Pa, I’m trying hard”), or deciphering the meaning of the abbreviations ПТХ  and ПНХ . All that may take him some time 🙂


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