Category Archives: In Popular Culture

Figurative Use: Full Scale Government Hoedown

In 2013, the US government shut down over arguments about the federal budget. The very funny people at The Onion decided to refer to the shutdown as a hoedown, and included many references to square dancing and other kinds of folk dances in the article.

U.S. On Verge Of Full-Scale Government Hoedown
September 30, 2013

While many bemoan the decrease in square dancing around the world, it seems that square dancing terms can still be used and generally understood in popular media. Square dancing is still fairly well-known, if not well-practiced, at least in the United States.

The association between square dancing and right wing (Republican) thinking is also apparent in this article. I do wish that association didn’t exist. I like my hobbies to be non-partisan…

Figurative Use: Volkswagen Golf Referred to as “Champion Square Dancer”

What are people thinking about when “square dancing” pops into their heads? Do the words have a positive image, or a negative image? In general, it seems that non-dancers often use the term in a negative way. However, sometimes the term is just used for style. In the case of the following use, I think (but I am not really sure) that square dancer is being used to refer to the fact that this car is “boxy”. My gut feeling is that they are making fun of the car, but then they use the word “champion”, so it’s a bit confusing!

volkswagen

You can see the full review here.

2015 Volkswagen Golf R
http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2015-volkswagen-golf-r-test-review
May 2015

Figurative Use: Square Dancing in Title of Article about Geometry

I have started a new category on figurative use of the term “square dance” in popular culture. I have noticed that the term is often used in a pejorative sense to indicate something “ridiculous” or “unnecessarily complicated with no real difference at the outcome”. The following article demonstrates a different kind of use. In this case, the article is about geometry, and squares (the shape, not the dance) make an appearance, so the author has chosen to use the term “square dancing” purely for style. I am happy that it is not pejorative, but I am sad that the article doesn’t actually mention square dancing. (It mentions “dancing squares”, but that is not really the same thing at all.)

Square Dancing
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/square-dancing/
March 14, 2010
(pdf)

The Asian Square Dance

I’m going to make a new category for the term “square dance” being used figuratively, so we can gain some insight into how it is being used that way outside of square dance circles.

The “Modern Diplomacy” website has an ongoing series about diplomacy in Asia, that it has entitled “The Asian Square Dance”. I think the figurative use of square dance in this case refers to how the situation in Asia involves more than just bilateral relations between two countries (i.e. one couple), but seems to be a constant stream of partnerships and disputes between a larger number of stakeholders. The image of a “grand square” comes to mind, but with more partners meeting up and setting off again, and not done in such an orderly or predictable way.

Square Dance by Justin King

Sometimes people use the words “square dance” to describe things that have little or nothing to do with square dancing. Often, the use is pejorative, since so many people have preconceived notions of square dancing that are, shall we say, not flattering. In this case, though, I think Justin King is doing us a favour with this title. He is clearly an extraordinarily talented artist, and it is an honour to be associated with this calibre of music. Thanks, Justin!