What Makes A “Crazy Aunt”? One Guess

Over at Language Log, linguist Mark Liberman asked the question “Who is the crazy uncle of American politics?” and traced the evolution of the phrase “crazy uncle” as a way to describe American political figures.

After the post went up, LL reader Andy Hollandbeck wrote to Liberman with a question:

After reading your Language Log post about the “crazy uncle” metaphor used in politics, I wondered how often Hillary Clinton, by extension, had been referred to as a “crazy aunt.” So I googled “crazy aunt” “hillary clinton”. I don’t know how to interpret what I found.

There seem to be very few references to Hillary as a crazy aunt, but there are quite a number of other uses in the political arena. What is strange is that — except for at least one reference to Ann Coulter as a crazy aunt — most “crazy aunt” references are to men. I found a few references to Mike Gravel and California representative Pete Stark as “crazy aunts,” but a great many references (some of them direct quotes from the same single source) to Rudy Giuliani as “the crazy aunt of the GOP.”

It makes me wonder about gender choices and what they imply here. What makes Rudy Giuliani a crazy aunt instead of a crazy uncle? Are crazy aunts somehow even crazier than crazy uncles? If so, does that imply some inherent sexism?

(Emphasis mine)

What makes Rudy Guiliani a “crazy aunt” instead of a “crazy uncle”? Gosh, I have no idea

Queen Rudy


Andy Hollandbeck

April 9, 2008
1:21 pm

Thanks for this laugh. Being from the Midwest, I don’t keep good tabs on the haps and mishaps of NY politicians, so this “Rudy Giulianica” photo shoot was a wacky surprise.
But, hey. What red-blooded American male hasn’t thrown on an evening gown, a cheap wig, panty hose, and some bling and gone out on the town to . . .
Never mind.