So what’s the deal with this Gizoogle shizzle?

I learnt that coffee can be translated as “fruity ass malt liquor”, for one thing.

The Gizoogle phenomena has been doing the rounds on twitter for a while now, a website that lets you translate anything on the internet into “gangsta slang”.

One of the most famous lines in literary history is translated as: To be, or not ta be, dat is tha question. David Miliband becomes Dizzy Millipede, naturally.

The brainchild of American John Beatty, who started the site in 2005 as a joke after inspiration by Snoop's "Doggy Fizzle Televizzle" program on MTV and a friend's constant use of the slang MSN messenger, it’s become viral most recently after a few relaunches.

I admit, I frittered away my time gizoogling the twitter feeds of stiff-upper-lipped toffs. It was fun to chuckle at the contrast between their normal tweets and this faux-vernacular. Perhaps that's because it highlights the false airs in how they usually communicate?

Here’s an extract from David Cameron’s 2012 Conservative Party Conference speech:

As Prime Minista it has fallen ta me ta say some hard thangs n' ta muthafuckin help our ghetto grill some hard truths fo' realz. All of mah adult life, whatever tha difficulties, tha British playas have at least been Kool & Tha Gang bout one thing. Our thugged-out asses have thought we can pay our way.

And even better, Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto in all its glory:

A spectre is hustlin Europe — tha spectre of communizzle fo' realz. All tha powerz of oldschool Europe have entered tha fuck into a holy alliance to exorcise dis spectre: Pimp n' Tsar, Metternich n' Guizot, French Radicals n' German five-o-spies.

Owen Jones had posted links to these on twitter, but after reading some of the responses to him, it made me think again:

Matt has a point. Rappers don’t even sound like this anymore. Maybe Snoop Lion (née Snoop Dogg) did back in 1994. And fair enough, if you don’t speak "ghetto", and no one ever mocks or pigeonholes you for not being able to speak “proper”, it makes you giggle.

But do we find mashing up intellectual texts with “rapper speak” funny because the latter is of no worth and sounds stupid? Jeremy Paxman interviewing Dizzee Rascal on Newsnight, anyone? I hate to be po-faced about this, but it’s easy to see why it’s a bit off. It is cringeworthy to see political commentators sharing links to “rap speak” and trying to be down with the kidz; and worse still when you know that it’s just a white web guy using algorithms to generate the translations in the first place.

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What Donald Trump could learn from Ronald Reagan

Reagan’s candidacy was built on more than his celebrity. Trump not only lacks experience as an elected official, he isn’t part of any organised political movement.

“No one remembers who came in second.” That wisdom, frequently dispensed by the US presidential candidate Donald Trump, came back to haunt him this week. Trump’s loss in the Iowa Republican caucuses to the Texas senator Ted Cruz, barely beating Senator Marco Rubio of Florida for second place, was the first crack in a campaign that has defied all expectations.

It has been a campaign built on Trump’s celebrity. Over the past eight months, his broad name recognition, larger-than-life personality and media savvy have produced a theatrical candidacy that has transfixed even those he repels. The question now is whether that celebrity will be enough – whether a man so obsessed with being “Number One” can bounce back from defeat.

Iowa isn’t everything, after all. It didn’t back the eventual Republican nominee in 2008 or 2012. Nor, for that matter, in 1980, when another “celebrity” candidate was in the mix. That was the year Iowa picked George H W Bush over Ronald Reagan – the former actor whom seasoned journalists dismissed as much for his right-wing views as for his “B-movie” repertoire. But Reagan regrouped, romped to victory in the New Hampshire primary and rode a wave of popular support all the way to the White House.

Trump might hope to replicate that success and has made a point of pushing the Reagan analogy more generally. Yet it is a comparison that exposes Trump’s weaknesses and his strengths.

Both men were once Democrats who came later in life to the Republican Party, projecting toughness, certainty and unabashed patriotism. Trump has even adopted Reagan’s 1980 campaign promise to “make America great again”. Like Reagan, he has shown he can appeal to evangelicals despite question marks over his religious conviction and divorces. In his ability to deflect criticism, too, Trump has shown himself as adept as Reagan – if by defiance rather than by charm – and redefined what it means to be “Teflon” in the age of Twitter.

That defiance, however, points to a huge difference in tone between Reagan’s candidacy and Trump’s. Reagan’s vision was a positive, optimistic one, even as he castigated “big government” and the perceived decline of US power. Reagan’s America was meant to be “a city upon a hill” offering a shining example of liberty to the world – in rhetoric at least. Trump’s vision is of an America closed off from the world. His rhetoric invokes fear as often as it does freedom.

On a personal level, Reagan avoided the vituperative attacks that have been the hallmark of Trump’s campaign, even as he took on the then“establishment” of the Republican Party – a moderate, urban, east coast elite. In his first run for the nomination, in 1976, Reagan even challenged an incumbent Republican president, Gerald Ford, and came close to defeating him. But he mounted the challenge on policy grounds, advocating the so-called “Eleventh Commandment”: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” Trump, as the TV debates between the Republican presidential candidates made clear, does not subscribe to the same precept.

More importantly, Reagan in 1976 and 1980 was the leader of a resurgent conservative movement, with deep wells of political experience. He had been president of the Screen Actors Guild in the late 1940s, waging a campaign to root out communist infiltrators. He had gone on to work for General Electric in the 1950s as a TV pitchman and after-dinner speaker, honing a business message that resonated beyond the “rubber chicken circuit”.

In 1964 he grabbed headlines with a televised speech on behalf of the Republican presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater – a bright spot in Goldwater’s otherwise ignominious campaign. Two years later he was elected governor of California – serving for eight years as chief executive of the nation’s most populous state. He built a conservative record on welfare reform, law and order, and business regulation that he pushed on to the federal agenda when he ran for president.

All this is to say that Reagan’s candidacy was built on more than his celebrity. By contrast, Trump not only lacks experience as an elected official, he isn’t part of any organised political movement – which enhanced his “outsider” status, perhaps, but not his ground game. So far, he has run on opportunism, tapping in to popular frustration, channelled through a media megaphone.

In Iowa, this wasn’t enough. To win the nomination he will have to do much more to build his organisation. He will be hoping that in the primaries to come, voters do remember who came in second. 

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war