The transmogrification of a word

I started to title this bugaloo but thought better of it. I even deliberately misspelled it here.

The Bugaloo was a dance originating in the Black/Puerto Rican neighborhoods of Spanish Harlem. It became popular through the 70s. Then somehow, according to this NPR report, it began to be used as a way of labeling a disturbance or dust-up, something gone wrong. That transition is hard to chart; it was a movie sequel, “Breakin’ Two: Electric Bugaloo”, so bad it became a cult classic and the word began to be used of a sequel no one really wanted. It worked its way into the world of gamers and then emerged on the far left and far right and was used to describe uproar and strife. Eventually it migrated to the far far right where it referred to what would happen if, for instance, the government tried to confiscate people’s guns. Civil war is often mentioned.

On the outer fringes it invokes race war. As the reporter, Hannah Allam observes, a word originally labeling a dance and its music derived from Black and brown people’s cultures is being used to reference a movement designed to get rid of those people. All of this appeals greatly to uninformed, frustrated, fearful people who look around for someone to scapegoat. The classic scapegoats are there: Jews and immigrants. In the U.S. the classic is Blacks, and now Mexicans combine the best of both worlds: dark immigrants. THERE is the problem. And if they don’t leave us alone to get back to 1952, there’ll be a bugaloo.

From an amalgam of beautiful cultures and celebration of Afro-America to the fever swamp. Trump was to drain the swamp but he just substituted the fever swamp for it. Great.

Here is the url to the article in sound and a transcript on npr:

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