Oct 20

Agreeing and Not With a Thoughtful Conservative

Charlie SykesRecently, Sean Illing at Vox interviewed Charlie Sykes, a conservative radio host in Wisconsin who is quitting the business.

Sykes says a good many interesting things in the interview. Mostly what impressed me was his consistency. He believes that Republicans who considered Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior unfit for the White House are utterly hypocritical in supporting Trump. Sykes admits that Trump represents a fascist figure, and that some conservative voters believe in “crazy stuff.” He said, “How many times can you say that Obama isn’t gay or a Muslim or that he wasn’t born in Kenya?”

I especially liked his take on the conservative media’s support: “another chance to beclown themselves on behalf of the Orange Duce.” He added, “They broke it. They own it.” And Trump’s most fervent GOP political allies? “The Huckabees, the Giulianis, the Newt Gingriches — they ought to be totally and utterly discredited by their support.” I agree. But I feel the less outspoken allies should be as well.

Naturally, as I am not a conservative, there are areas of disagreement. Charlie Sykes respects Paul Ryan; I do not. Sykes believes William Buckley’s rejection of the John Birch Society was principled; I see it as purely a strategic move. The Birchers often accused prominent Republicans of being Communist tools; it was wise to break off that kind of dissension, while maintaining the anti-civil rights and Cold War rhetoric that appealed to Birchers.

Did Political Correctness Give Birth to Trump?

There’s one area where I both grant his point, and reject it. Sykes blames some of the far-right’s rise on liberals who were too quick to label opponents as “racist” or “sexist” (while acknowledging that Trump is both). And I’ll agree that these terms are very powerful, so they should not be used lightly.

I’d argue that the perception conservatives have of the nation being “too PC” is something few conservatives have any direct experience with, but they hear about it from their media.

However, there’s a difference between attacking people and attacking policy. I neither know nor care what Reagan’s views towards African-Americans were. His policies were deeply racist. People who support voter-ID laws may themselves be unbiased; but voter-ID laws are deeply racist. Bush II worked well with Condoleeza Rice; but he also supported policies that endangered women’s health.

It Was You, Charlie

Furthermore, at least before the rise of social media, calling conservative voters “racist” or “sexist” was not a frequent occurrence. How often did it come up at the workplace, or at family dinners? Most accusations of “sexism” or “racism” were over-hyped instances of, say, something spoken at a college protest.

It was Limbaugh and Fox News that spread these stories, to further their narrative that liberals were bent on thought-controlling dissent out of existence. I’d argue that the perception conservatives have of the nation being “too PC” is very like their perception that crime rates are rocketing and voter fraud is rampant. It’s something few conservatives have any direct experience with, but they hear about it from their media.

There is blame on our side for using those terms too lightly (particularly on the internet, where pejorative terms are used with little care for how harmful they can be). But it’s mostly right-wing media that has created the notion that white male Christians are threatened by “PC.”

Charlie Sykes and the New Prometheus

Finally, there’s one area where Charlie Sykes is completely, 100% correct. Illing compared Trump to a “Frankensteinian monster,” and Sykes didn’t think it’s an apt analogy. Right on, Charlie! The monster was highly intelligent, and only became filled with violent rage once he’d been rejected by humanity’s cruelty to those who look different.

Trump does indeed resemble an angry monster, but it’s what’s inside that counts. If we’re going horror classics, he’s more Dracula. He lives in a castle, must return every night to his lair, preys on superstitious rural villagers. And like Dracula in bat form, Trump is skilled at navigating blindly through an echo chamber.

My credit to Charlie Sykes for leaving it.

Oct 20

What Did Not Happen at Last Night’s Debate

Clinton - Trump - Did Not HappenAt the third 2016 presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Wednesday night, a few things did not happen.

Hillary Clinton did not fall into a coma.

She did not swear or use a racial epithet, and she did not commit a violent crime.

Her command of policy detail and the way our system of government works did not fail her, and she did not thus reveal herself to be a robot (in which case she’d run the risk of short circuiting on the job) or a victim of sporadic dementia.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, didn’t transform into the second coming of Franklin Roosevelt. He didn’t cop to a late-in-life diagnosis of attention deficit disorder that had impaired his ability to retain and process information over the course of his entire adult life, but which has now been medically remedied. His presentation yielded no heretofore uncovered evidence that Clinton murdered anyone or has a drug problem.

Only a debate development of comical magnitude could have reversed the public’s impressions of these candidates. No such development transpired, and no such development was ever likely to transpire.

This race is over. It has been for some time.

—Brian Beutler
The 2016 Race Is Over

Oct 19

Live Blog: Third Presidential Debate 2016

Third Presidential Debate 2016Welcome to the third presidential debate! Could this get any worse? Given what Trump has been saying on the campaign trail, it’s hard to imagine this thing being anything but worse than the second one.

Trump’s new thing is claiming that the election is rigged. This is, of course, what losers say. It’s also what children say. And that about sums up Trump. The main thing I remember from the second debate is Trump complaining that the moderators were going easy on Clinton and giving her more time. It turned out that he actually spoke for more time. He also interrupted her 13 times compared to her interrupting him once. And he spoke over the moderators twice as much as she did.

Trump’s Whining

If you haven’t see Obama talking about Trump’s claim that there will be a rigged election, you should. It is very thoughtful — very Obama. But it has some good lines, especially, “You start whining before the games even over?!” And: “I’d advise Mr Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.”

Under normal circumstances, I would think the third presidential debate would be changed because of this. Certainly I am known to get over excited about things. And when people say things like Obama did about Trump, I am ashamed. And Obama isn’t the only one. Elizabeth Warren is openly mocking him. She even clucked at him! But I don’t see this having any effect on Trump.

Trump in the Third Presidential Debate

Trump will do in the third presidential debate what he did in the second one: play to his base of supporters. And that seems to be all that Trump is interested in at this point. That is what all this “rigged election” whining is about. It gives Trump a way to maintain his delusion that he is still a winner even after he loses the election. What’s amazing is that his supporters believe all this nonsense and don’t see it as the face-saving maneuver that it is.

Of course, it isn’t hard for Trump to make this argument, given that Republicans have been pushing this whole voter fraud nonsense for at least the last seven plus years. So perhaps these pathetic angry white men can be forgiven. Of course, they bought the lie with ease at the beginning. They’re big on buying lies.

Trump TV?! Trump Vlog!

For months I’d been assuming that all this would end in Trump TV. But an article by Brian Beutler made me rethink that, Donald Trump’s Media Conglomerate Already Exists. People like Ryan Lizza and Josh Marshall are pouring cold water on it. The problem isn’t just that the market is saturated. Starting up something that would compete with Fox News would be unbelievably expensive. Trump doesn’t have the money to go toe-to-toe with Rupert Murdoch.

I like what Marshall said, “If there’s a post-campaign Trump media vehicle it’s far more likely to be a bargain-basement but perhaps high traffic website on the model of Breitbart.” And such a sad ending to Donald Trump would be perfect. It would give me a small bit of evidence that there is a just God. Or at least one with a sense of humor!

I’m not looking forward to the third presidential debate. It will probably be interesting. But it won’t be edifying.

But stop back by throughout the day and during the debate itself for my gloomy thoughts.

Live Blog

Oct 19

Odd Words: Cacography

CacographyWe are starting the the C words with page 35 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. And I’ve picked another word that has to do with writing: cacography.

Beyond Cacography: Where’s Caboose?

I was shocked — Shocked I tell you! — that the word “caboose” was not in the dictionary. It is one of my very favorite words. When I was incredibly young, my sister and I used to run to the window each time the freight train went by, pointing and screaming, “The caboose! The caboose!” How can you not love a word like that. And it is also the case that cabooses are the coolest part of the train. I’ve never lost my love of the word. In Oregon, there is a town named Scappoose. It’s not very nice. But I’ve always loved it because it rhymes with “caboose.”

Words I Didn’t Know

Even though page 35 was a partial one, it still had some interesting words. There is “caboclo,” which may be the native peoples of Brazil or the people resulting from the mix of the Brazilian natives and the European invaders. It depends upon who you ask.

I was going to use the word “cabotage,” which has to do with trade at sea. But since I did a boat word yesterday, it seemed kind of boring. Most people would find it kind of boring anyway.

A word I did know was “cacciatore.” But that is just because Chicken Cacciatore is one of my standard dishes. I didn’t realize it was a dish “containing or prepared with tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs, etc.” But it is. It’s still one of my favorite things.

That’s enough of such trivialities, let’s get on to cacography!

Ca·cog·ra·phy  noun  \ka-‘kä-grə-fē\

1. inartistic or illegible handwring.

2. bad spelling.

Date: late 16th century.

Origin: from the Greek κακός which means “bad.”

Example: The clippings are peppered with bitchy annotations written in his highly stylized calligraphy to which I make additional acerbic annotations in my cacography of orange felt-tip ink and mail them back to him. —Jamie Brickhouse, You’ve Got Republican Mail!

Oct 18

Omaha World-Herald’s Third-Way Nonsense

The Omaha World-HeraldFrom Charlie Pierce I learned that The Omaha World-Herald broke with an 84 year run by endorsing the Democrat, Hillary Clinton Is Prudent Pick for President. But the endorsement is lukewarm at best. And it doesn’t make a lot of sense, to be honest.

The endorsement talks about how people don’t trust Clinton. There’s the email scandal and Benghazi! and (inexplicably) her support for single-payer healthcare. And then they lay on the good ol’ third-way line. “If Secretary Clinton is elected, Americans will need her to be a uniting president, working from the center, and not advancing an agenda that will further alienate moderates and conservatives.” I despair for our nation!

That’s where they leave the endorsement. But how exactly is Clinton moving to the center going to help? One reason people don’t trust her is that they think she talks populist to the people, but when alone with the banks, she’s her real plutocratic self. So if Clinton governs the way The Omaha World-Herald wants her to, it will prove that the people saying she’s duplicitous were right.

Omaha World-Herald Does Care About Trust

The truth is that the editors at The Omaha World-Herald are endorsing Clinton but they want the world to know that they expect her to be a Republican.

And that just shows that this conservative newspaper isn’t at all concerned about Clinton being trustworthy. They know that Clinton is as trustworthy or more than any other politician. This is just a way for them to call for Clinton to do what all the conservatives and third’way pseudo-moderates call on Democrats to do: move right!

Of course, I’m very used to this kind of nonsense. What most bugs me is this idea that somehow Clinton could be a “uniting president.” Obama tried very hard (and for far too long) to be a uniting president. And all that happened was that the Republicans rejected it. If Obama moved to the right one step, they moved to the right two. And the new, more extreme, conservative position was duly disseminated to the Republican base.

We Democrats have spent the last 35 years trying to find common ground with the Republicans. And all that has happened is that the country has gotten more and more conservative. Wages have stagnated, even while corporate profits have steadily increased. More people than ever are jailed, most effectively having their lives ruined. Aid to the poor has been savagely cut.

Just More Third-Way Nonsense

Yet Hillary Clinton is supposed to work “from the center.” And who exactly is this supposed to make happy anyway? The one remaining moderate Republican who is on life-support in an unnamed hospital in the great Omaha area? Certainly the Trump base (AKA: the Republican base) isn’t interested in some kind of third-way, corporate-friendly policy. Unless she starts calling Mexicans rapists, I don’t see her winning over this group.

Right now, FiveThirtyEight estimates that she will beat Donald Trump and Gary Johnson combined. And remember: Johnson is taking as many votes from Clinton as he is from Trump. So where exactly does The Omaha World-Herald get this idea that the onus is on her to reach out to conservatives? Nowhere.

The truth is that the editors at The Omaha World-Herald are endorsing Clinton but they want the world to know that they expect her to be a Republican. Anything else will be her fault. Damn all the liberals who support her. The Omaha World-Herald’ editors must be mollified! It’s too embarrassing to support the nominee who is a perfect reflection of the party they’ve supported these last 84 years. But you can expect more editorials over the next few years where they complain about how Clinton has failed because she didn’t united the country. And what they will mean by that is: didn’t do what they wanted.

Oct 18

Odd Words: Bumboat

BumboatWe reach the end of the B words on page 34 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. And I’ve picked a simple enough word: bumboat.

Other Words for Sale on My Bumboat

Page 34 featured two related words that are no doubt of use to readers of The New York Times: Bundestag and the Bundesrat. They are the legislative houses of the German government. From what I know (And I’m certain one or more of you all will correct me if I’m wrong!) the Bundestag is more like our House of Representatives and the Bundesrat is more like our Senate. But the Bundesrat is more like the Senate before the Seventeenth Amendment. That is to say: its members are not directly elected by the people but rather appointed by the state governments.

Disgusting Biology

One word I didn’t know may surprise you: bung. It is “a plug or stopper for the hole in a wooden barrel.” I certainly knew the coarse word “bunghole,” which I assume is derived from it. It is a marvel that for a great many people, the anus never loses the fascination that it held when they were children. I, of course, find almost everything about the human body disgusting. Really: observe yourself while you’re eating some time. You’ll quickly conclude that eating should be done in private and with great shame.

Thirty white horses on a red hill
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.

But enough of such talk. Let us move to bumboat!

Bum·boat  noun  \bəm’-bōt\

1. a small boat used to ferry provisions to ships lying in harbor.

Date: late 17th century.

Origin: apparently from the Dutch word bomschuit, which some sources say means “small fishing boat.” However, I can’t find that word defined anywhere. The Dutch word schuit means “boat.” So I suspect that bomschuit is slang or jargon.

Example: Now it seemed the bumboat was returning to her best customer. —Hal Weidner (Heart of War: A Descent into Darkness)

Oct 17

The Latte Lie and the Shaming of the Poor

Latte LieI happened upon an article from earlier this year by Helaine Olen, Buying Coffee Every Day Isn’t Why You’re in Debt. It’s actually from her 2013 book, Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry. And it gives me an opportunity to discuss this issue, which I think is very important. I am sick to death of this idea that if the poor were only thrifty (No latte for you!) all their problems would be solved.

It’s hard enough being poor. But most places outside this country where you run into poor people, you notice something: they don’t reek of shame. But here in the United States they do. (We do, since I’ve been a fellow sufferer a couple of times.) Being poor is mostly a matter of bad luck. But here it is portrayed as justice. “If only the poor acted more like the rich!” In fact, this is exactly the argument made by prominent rich people like David Brooks and Charles Murray. But note: neither of them are racists. It’s just that their Great Brains lead them inextricably to the racist conclusions they draw.

The Latte Lie

You probably know the old saying, “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.” Well, no one much uses it anymore because it is so obviously false. But Olen noted that today, you will hear the same advice. She focused on the Starbucks latte. Many personal finance gurus explain that you aren’t poor because you’re out of work or making minimum wage. No: you are poor because you splurge on Starbucks lattes! And they justify it with highly distorted mathematics:

[David] Bach calculated that eschewing a $5 daily bill at Starbucks… for a double nonfat latte and biscotti with chocolate could net a prospective saver $150 a month, or $2,000 a year. If she then took that money and put it all in stocks that Bach, ever an optimist, assumed would grow at an average annual rate of 11 percent a year, “chances are that by the time she reached sixty-five, she would have more than $2 million sitting in her account…”

Note the many problems here. The $5 per day is actually not $2,000, but $1,825. That matters a lot when you are compounding interest. And it isn’t just the latte but also a biscotti. Otherwise, you couldn’t make it to $5. Who these people are who have lattes every single day of their lives I can’t say. But then he adds that this is all going to be invested and make 11 percent a year! Amazing.

Olen reported on a more reasonable analysis that assumed $3 per latte and took into account things like taxes and inflation. The result? After 30 years of Starbucks deprivation, $50,000 would be saved. Time to retire in Grand Cayman, am I right?!

Shame the Poor!

The truth is that the power elite love this kind of lie. It works on two levels. First, it gives them an excuse to not pay workers more. After all: just cut out those lattes and you’ll retire a millionaire! Second, it gives them an excuse to not pay workers more. Because the reason they are rich is because they are frugal. Or they are when it comes to paying workers. When it comes to little things like a daily latte to make life bearable, they don’t deprive themselves. After all: they know that this business about the latte is just a useful lie.

The whole thing reminds me of Randy Newman’s “God’s Song.” In it, all the religious people of the world get together and they ask God, “If you will not take care of us, won’t you please, please let us be?” And that’s the thing here. The rich are lucky to be so and the poor are unlucky to be so. (If you want to think of this in terms of genes, be my guest; but that’s not what I mean.) As a result, the rich should count their blessings. And they shouldn’t come up with stupid theories like the latte lie to make the lives of the poor harder than they already are.

Oct 17

Fowler on Feasible

Frontispiece of Fowler's Modern English UsageWith those who feel that the use of an ordinary word for an ordinary notion does not do justice to their vocabulary or sufficiently exhibit their cultivation, feasible is now a prime favorite. Its proper sense is “capable of being done, accomplished, or carried out.” That is, it means the same as “possible” in one of the latter’s sense, and its true function is to be used instead of “possible” where that might be ambiguous. A thunderstorm is possible (but not “feasible”). Irrigation is possible (or, indifferently, “feasible”). A counter-revolution is possible: that is, (a) one may for all we know happen, or (b) we can if we choose bring one about; but, if (b) is the meaning, “feasible” is better than “possible” because it cannot properly bear sense (a) and therefore obviates ambiguity.

The wrong use of “feasible” is that in which… it is allowed to have also the other sense of “possible,” and that of “probable.” This is described by the OED as “hardly a justifable sense etymologically, and… recognized by no dictionary.” It is however becoming very common…

—H W Fowler
Modern English Usage

Oct 16

We’re Cutting HFCs? Great! But Don’t Get Too Excited

HFCsOver at Vox Brad Plumer wrote, The World Just Took One of the Biggest Steps yet to Fight Global Warming. It is about last week’s amendment to the Montreal Protocol that will limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). And it is good news! Just the same, don’t think that it represents some turning point in the fight against global warming. Like the Montreal Protocol itself, this is just another example of how easy it is to get good environmental deals made when it will increase (or at least not hurt) corporate profits.

People focus on carbon-dioxide, because it is the biggest direct human caused force heating the atmosphere. But it isn’t the only greenhouse gas. In fact, it isn’t the most important. Roughly half the effect of increases in carbon-dioxide are due to a feedback where the temperature rise causes there to be more water vapor in the air. That water vapor then increases the temperature more.

Replacing CFCs Was Good Business

There are other important human created greenhouse gases: methane, nitrous oxide, and the two big chlorofluorocarbon: CFC-11 and CFC-12. Well, both those last two were banned in the Montreal Protocol. And if you know the history of the ozone hole, you may have wondered why it was so easy to address that problem but not global warming. The answer is simple: the patents were running out on those chemicals and DuPont et al had some brand new patents that they could replace the CFCs with: HFCs!

But call me cynical, I can’t help but notice that 20 years after we banned the CFCs, we are now going to phase out the HFCs, which just happen to be going out of patent.

The problem is that greenhouse gases are not all created equal. For example, there is only about 1/200th as much methane in the atmosphere as there is carbon-dioxide. But methane is still important because it has about 25 times the heat trapping ability of carbon-dioxide. The CFCs and the HFCs have a far higher heat trapping potential. CFC-12 traps almost 20,000 times as much heat as carbon-dioxide. The HFCs are in the same area. So it is really good that we are getting rid of them. (See the IPCC’s Direct Global Warming Potentials for details about this stuff.)

Replacing HFCs Is Good Business

But call me cynical, I can’t help but notice that 20 years after we banned the CFCs, we are now going to phase out the HFCs, which just happen to be going out of patent. But not to worry! There is a replacement: hydrofluoroolefins! What are they? According to Wikipedia they are “‘fourth generation’ refrigerants with a thousand times lower global-warming potential than HFCs.” And again: that’s great! But these compounds are only now being developed, meaning their patents haven’t even started.

Getting rid of HFCs is necessary. I’m not putting down this recent deal. I just want people to understand that it can’t be generalized. This was a case where corporate financial interests intersected with the public good. When that happens, governments (specifically the US government) find it politically possible to make changes.

Still No Clear Way Forward

The government should be looking out for the public good. That doesn’t seem to be the way that it works. The government looks out for the corporate good. So we can applaud the ends of this amendment to the Montreal Protocol. But the means are a real problem. We aren’t going to get deals like this when it comes to the fossil fuel industry.

Oct 16

Trump’s True Patriot Quotes

True PatriotIf she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it. We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take… I would do whatever I can for my country. —Dan Bowman, a true patriot who would do anything for his country except support its system of government.

Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure. I’ll look for… well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American. I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous. —Steve Webb, a true patriot who don’t need no stinking English.

We’re heading toward North Korea, without a doubt. —Grant Reed, a true patriot who knows more about the Dunning–Kruger Effect than anyone.

If people are offended by the sexual stuff, what do they think is going to happen when Muslims come here, implement Sharia law, and start raping our women? —Joe Cecil, a true patriot who is absolutely not a racist because he didn’t say “white women.”

We’re going to have a lot of election fraud. They are having illegals vote. In some states, you don’t need voter registration to vote… We can’t have that lying bitch in the White House. —Jeannine Bell Smith, a true patriot who knows you can trust Alex Jones.

All I know is our country is not going to be a country anymore. I’ve heard people talk about a revolution. I’ve heard people talk about separation of states. I don’t even like to think about it. But I don’t think this movement is going away. We don’t have a voice anymore, and Donald Trump is giving us a voice. —Judy Wright, a true patriot who sees that whites are totally marginalized in this country (which is not going to be a country anymore).

Oct 15

Why Polls Still Give Trump a 20 Percent Chance

Hillary Clinton - PollsThe other day, I was reading something where Nate Silver wrote (roughly), “Clinton has ‘only’ an 80 percent chance of winning the presidency.” His point with the scare quotes was that 80 percent is huge. Still, most people find the idea that Donald Trump has a 20 percent chance of winning the presidency absurd. After all, if you look at the polls, Clinton is winning everywhere. And there are only 24 days until the election. Surely, Clinton has more like a 95 percent chance of winning. Right? Wrong.

There are two major reasons why Donald Trump will never manage to get down even to a 10 percent chance of winning. Let’s start with the more obvious one: the polls could be wrong.

Polling is a science. And the people who do it professionally are really good. If you want to know how many adults support Clinton vs Trump, they can tell with with a high degree of accuracy. But no one cares how many adults support Clinton. We care about how many registered voters will actually go to the polls and vote for her. And figuring that out is really hard. As Sasha Issenberg explained of one pollster regarding the 2008 election:

It turned out that something like 87% of people who said they were likely to vote ended up voting. 70% of those who said they [were] pretty likely voted. But 55% of people who said they were unlikely to vote, and got kicked off polls because of that, ended up voting.

How Much Are Polls Off?

Is it likely that the polls are off by that much? No. But with fundamental unknowns about who will actually vote, we have to say that Trump has some chance.

Donald Trump - PollsThe bigger reason that Trump will always have what seems like a bigger chance than seems reasonable is just that something might happen. The Trump campaign has pushed hard on Clinton’s recent illness. If she fainted on stage a week before the election, it could propel Trump into the presidency. Stranger things have happened.

Random Acts of Voting

Matt Yglesias wrote a very interesting article yesterday, This Is the Best Book to Help You Understand the Wild 2016 Campaign. The book in question is Democracy for Realists by Achen and Bartels. And what it shows is just how dependent voting patterns are to totally unrelated things.

An old example of this is how shark attacks affected the 1916 presidential election in a New Jersey coastal community. But a new example is how NFL games affect voting. So if the Pittsburgh Steelers win the Sunday before the election, it might give Clinton an extra percentage point of the vote in Pennsylvania. On the other hand, if they lose, it will likely help Trump.

And you know: that is crazy.

Things Are as Good as They Could Be

But that is the nature of elections. I believe in democracy, but only because I don’t know of any system that is even as good, much less better. What’s important to know is that we really don’t know what’s going to happen. And that is terrifying. Donald Trump even having a one percent chance of becoming president is terrifying.

What’s important to remember is that Hillary Clinton is doing as well in this election as could possibly be expected. She almost certainly will be our next president. But there are so many things that could happen that we just can’t say. I’ll be worrying until the votes are counted.

Oct 15

Odd Words: Bruit

BruitLots of interesting words on page 33 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. Today, we have a cool little verb: bruit.

Picking Bruit

I’ve taken a different approach today in picking a word. I found an example sentence first. This is often the most time consuming part of the whole exercise. For example, I really wanted to use the word “brulé” today. It means “a forest region destroyed by fire.” But there are so many people with that last name that finding the word in a sentence was difficult. Actually, “bruit” turned out to be too; but I found something that worked out well just as I was about to give up.

I thought it was interesting that “bulimia” was in the dictionary. This edition of the book was published in 1985. That’s just two years after Karen Carpenter died. But to stop thinking about that, you can listen to “Superstar” by The Carpenters. It’s not the best version. But it does have a naiveté that works for it and makes it special.

A word that brought back a lot of memories was “buccal,” which describes something related the cheek. One doesn’t normally need such a word, but in a dentist office, it is critically important.

But on to bruit:

Bruit  verb  \brüt\

1. to spread a rumor

Date: early 15th century (but as a noun).

Origin: late Middle English from Old French bruire meaning “to roar.”

Example: Sleazy headlines bruit about that Labine was slain in a gangster’s love nest. —Kenneth Tucker (Eliot Ness and the Untouchables: The Historical Reality and the Film and Television Depictions)

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