December 30, 2007

Gleening the Hidden Meanings in Peggy Noonan's Writing.

So, I've forgotten: is Glen Greenwald a total idiot, or a liar? Just askin'.

Why does Salon continue to give this guy space? His response to Peggy Noonan's roundup of the Presidential field is simply an embarrassment to political discourse. He actually claimed that her reference to him [Edwards] poofing his hair was an allusion to the British slang noun poof, which denotes a homosexual. Then Greenwald backpedaled and suggested that even if her criticism of Edwards' grooming habits weren't a slur regarding his sexual preference, it somehow amounted to the same thing. Wow.

I mean, if this is an ignorance problem, we could send Greenwald an American dictionary, or a guide to basic grammar (which would help clear up his noun/verb confusion).

Or, perhaps we someone could sit him down and explain the difference between one's sexual orientation and one's attitude toward hair care.

I don't happen to share Noonan's views: I think it's reasonable to pay attention to one's appearance when one is in public life, and I found the YouTube video of Edwards prepping for a TV appearance to be dirty pool. But Noonan is entitled to her opinion, and conflating her statement that we "can't have" a vain guy as a President with a commentary on Edwards' sexuality is . . . well, as I said, either stupid or profoundly dishonest.

Via Protein Wisdom, which is a motherlode of commentary on the subject.

Joyner weighs in:

Noonan is guilty here of being banal rather than tawdry. It’s the opposite of Coulterism, really.


My thoughts over at Jeff's place are below the fold. Read on only if you have an editorial background and a strong stomach for linguistic nitpicking.

One cannot simply allude to any old dictionary in an argument of this type. For one thing, there are two types of dictionary: descriptive, and prescriptive. The first attempts to document how language is used: decade to decade, century to century, and continent to continent. The second attempts to dictate what is correct (also subject to change as time progresses, and from region to region, nation to nation, and according to whether one is in the U.S. or a Commonwealth country).

Like most copyeditors, I use Merriam-Webster (online or the 10th edition) for most applications, and supplement that with a “fat” dictionary (I used Randon House) when necessary. American Heritage is also pretty good. One cannot simply pluck meanings from any old website and grant it the authority one would give Merriam-Webster (Web 10/11) or (in Britain) the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The online Merriam-Webster gives no definition for poof as a verb. It does allude to the noun poof as British slang for homosexual, but also describes the word as related to puff (which makes sense–some would correlate it directly to the term “powder puff”).

Puff as a verb is defined thus:

Main Entry: 1 puff Pronunciation: \?p?f\ Function: verb Etymology: Middle English, from Old English pyffan, of imitative origin Date: before 12th century

intransitive verb

1 a (1): to blow in short gusts (2): to exhale forcibly
b: to breathe hard : pant
c: to emit small whiffs or clouds (as of smoke) often as an accompaniment to vigorous action

2: to speak or act in a scornful, conceited, or exaggerated manner

3 a: to become distended : swell — usually used with “up”
b: to open or appear in or as if in a puff

4: to form a chromosomal puff

transitive verb

1 a: to emit, propel, blow, or expel by or as if by puffs : waft
b: to draw on (as a cigar, cigarette, or pipe) with intermittent exhalations of smoke

2 a: to distend with or as if with air or gas : inflate
b: to make proud or conceited : elate
c (1): to praise extravagantly and usually with exaggeration

2): advertise

Which is, of course, why we refer to journalists who write “puff pieces.” I suspect that the pivotal idea here is "to incorporate air" (air being a metaphorical term for pride, in some usages) and that both poof and puff are in term related to fluff. That, of course, is the word I would have used: Poof as a verb is, I imagine, akin to the word snuck for sneaked—a very popular yet not-quite-standard variant.

Fluff, from Merriam-Webster online:

Main Entry: fluff Function: verb Date: 1835

transitive verb

1: to make fluffy
2 a: to spoil by a mistake : botch
b: to deliver badly or forget (one’s lines) in a play

intransitive verb

1: to become fluffy

2: to make a mistake; especially: to forget or bungle one’s lines in a play

Those who are familiar with the porn industry will probably know other slang uses for this verb as well. The main idea with all three verbs is to increase volume—either through incorporating air, or using hairspray or mousse. Or, in some cases, increasing the blood flow through various vessels.

None of which has a lot to do with homosexuality (depending, I guess, on who is doing the fluffing).

For the record, I think Edwards is bringing up some interesting points in his campaign, at the same time I wouldn’t vote for him. And I don’t pick my Presidents based on how extensive their grooming routines are (unless I honestly think they’d stop to mess with their hair during a nuclear crisis; I certainly don’t see Edwards that way).

Did I mention that Greenwald is an idiot?

Posted by Attila Girl at December 30, 2007 02:23 PM | TrackBack

Why choose between idiot and liar? He has proven that he is both over the years. His sockpuppets might disagree, though. Or at least give him an opponent he can best.

Posted by: Darrell at December 31, 2007 02:05 PM

I just never got the concept that painting Edwards as a homosexual was an official Right Wing Conspiracy meme. I certainly never got the memo.

I guess to some extent guys like Frank J. at IMAO have played with this, but it's not a serious issue. So why left wing bloggers are always looking for this in conservative critics' writing (and I have gotten comments along these lines on my site, too) is beyond me.

Now unmanliness -- that's something else.

Posted by: Ron Coleman at January 1, 2008 09:02 AM


\Gleen\, v. i. [Cf. Glance, Glint.] To glisten; to gleam. [Obs.] --Prior.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

Don't forget to gleen the hidden messages in Beatles songs played backwards. Hidden messages? People, the ball; shall we keep our eyes on it?

Post a comment? Remember: Be polite. Attack ideas, not people. Yeah, right.

Posted by: Hog Beatty at January 1, 2008 07:58 PM

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