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Today’s (September 10) New York Times carries Maureen Dawd’s article titled ‘Sleeping Barry Awakes.’ The headline is followed with the following beginning lines:

WOW, what a relief.

The president was strong and House Republicans were conciliatory. There was only one teensy-weensy problem: The president is weak and House Republicans are obstructionist.

Congressional Republicans, heeding polls indicating that their all-out assault on President Obama was risky, finally tempered their public comments after the jobs speech on Thursday and stopped acting like big jerks.

I understand Maureen likens President to “Sleeping Barry.” But who is “Sleeping Barry” to begin with? From where it came from? I know all and sundry know “Sleeping Barry” in English-speaking countries. But I couldn’t find the definition on Google Search, though it was flooded with the clips headed by “Sleeping Barry Awakes.”

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Note that I retitled this to use the proper English idiom that I think you were shooting for. –  JSBձոգչ Sep 11 '11 at 1:33
    
@JSB nice one... –  Louis Rhys Sep 11 '11 at 11:05
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2 Answers

"Sleeping Barry" is simply Obama himself. "Barry" is a playful nickname based on Obama's first name Barack, and he's referred to as "Sleeping Barry" to allude to Sleeping Beauty and the idiomatic expression "sleeping giant".

  • Sleeping Beauty is a traditional European fairy tale about a princess who is put to sleep by an evil sorceress until a prince can wake her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_Beauty.
  • The phrase "sleeping giant" refers to someone of great strength or significance, but which is currently dormant or "asleep".
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@JSBangs. It didn’t come to my mind at all that Barack can be shortened into Barry. My knowledge of abbreviated form of names is limited to just a few instances such as Bill for William, Tom for Thomas, and Rich for Richard. I know ‘Sleeping Beauty’ of fairy tale well. But it was out of imagination for me that Sleeping Barry is a pun on ‘Sleeping Beauty.’ In the same token, I wasn’t able to decipher the phrase, “More than 1 /3 USAers think they are worse off ‘under Bam.’” It’s no wonder that I searched for definitions of ‘sleeping Barry, and ‘under bam’ on all available dictionaries in vain. –  Yoichi Oishi Sep 11 '11 at 5:08
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From the Wikipedia article on the man: "Obama was known as "Barry" in his youth, but asked to be addressed with his given name during his college years.[274]" As for 'Sleeping Beauty', there isn't really a pun here, just an allusion. –  Karl Knechtel Sep 11 '11 at 8:41
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"Sleeping Barry" isn't a reference to a figure named "Sleeping Barry." Obama's first name, Barack, has often been shortened to Barry. So this just refers to Obama.

Here, "sleeping" is just another way of saying "inactive." The image that the author is conjuring is of a man at work sleeping at his desk; he's not getting anything done. That is, Dawd implies that he is not pushing for change or using his powers as President, but rather he's just letting the House Republicans do what it will without interference.

This is also a pun because "Sleeping Barry" sounds a lot like "Sleeping Beauty", the name of a very popular fairy tale and (more importantly for recognition's sake) Disney movie.

By saying that he is awakening, Dawd is saying that she expects this to change, which she says is a huge relief. She expects Obama to begin fighting against the "obstrunctionist" politics of the House Republicans.

Also, the phrase you're looking for in your question is Who on earth is "Sleeping Barry"? That phrase goes "Who/what on earth is X"?

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The expression "where/who/what on earth" is more common in Britain, but both phrases "where/who/what on earth" and "where/who/what in the world" are quite common in the US. See this Google Ngram. –  Peter Shor Sep 11 '11 at 11:36
    
@Peter Shor JSBangs edited the title. It originally said "Who is sleeping barry on the earth?" That's what I was "correcting", not the current one. –  Jeremy Sep 14 '11 at 4:03
    
I see. That definitely needed correcting. –  Peter Shor Sep 15 '11 at 2:44
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