Because I can’t access the BJ Lexicon tonight, I’ll just share this tidbit here: According to the late local TV news, the late William Safire claimed to have introduced the terms “strawman” and “thrown under the bus“ into modern political discourse (along with his catchphrase, “nattering nabobs of negatavism”).
Of course it probably isn’t true, since Safire didn’t claim authorship when he discussed the term in his beloved column on English usage. So I’m left to wonder: why these phrases, now? Why did somebody think it would be a creative honor worth claiming?
I thought “nattering nabobs of negatavism” was Spiro Agnew. And the term “straw man” has been around since medieval times, it was an anglo-saxon legal concept.
The Main Gauche of Mild Reason
Am I the only one that cracks up every time I see that silly Bitsy sidebar ad?
JMC in the ATL
Douche: (noun) The kind of “man” that would call Matthew Shepard’s mom a liar to her face in a crowded room.
@The Main Gauche of Mild Reason:
I love those Little Bitsy ads. Laura W. is a genius with those things.
I’m back from ISU family week, and boy don’t I miss the days of shotgunning 5 Natty ice’s and then puking into the dorm sink, but goddamn is it revolting 7 years after the fact.
Agnew said it, but Safire wrote it. His proudest moment as a speechwriter for the Nixon White House.
“Yo Banks, give me a funky-ass bass line”
You can thank Dr. Dre for that one.
Maybe you’ve been blocked from the lexicon for immortalizing in it a particular gasping gasbag of gabgadgetry. You’re a wise woman, Annie, and should have known better.
Would someone please throw me under a bus? Then maybe I can get some REAL fucking sleep.
It’s almost tempting to watch Morning Joke today just to hear what Buchanan has to say about his Nixon White House colleague.
On second thought . . . .
‘Strawman’ is an old rhetorical or logical description of a type of argumentation. Someone with access to an OED will have to locate that for you.
And, why are new reports omitting Safire’s parting lament that he will not be able to trace the origins of keep fucking that chicken?
My parting lament is that I don’t have the edit funkshun.
@SiubhanDuinne: Hahahaha, best funny of the day thus far. There is nothing that could induce me to listen to anything that asshole has to say about anybody.
@wasabi gasp: You, Sir, are comedic gold.
My parting lament is that I do haz edit funkyshun, so nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah. No, wait. That’s more like my parting taunt.
FWIW, M-W dates it to 1886, and the American Heritage Dictionary does not give a date or any citation. So maybe this is pretty much of a modern term, although there must be an older latinate term for the concept.
It would be irresponsible not to speculate that Dan Riehl lures little children into the back of his Chevy Astro van with promises of crack and My Little Ponies for the purposes of his own twisted sexual gratification.
That post has got to go down in history as one of the most despicable posts ever.
@Xenos: Dictionary.com has it originating in 1585 – 1595, but no explanation.
@calipygian: Words fail me. It’s not often that I am disgusted beyond belief, but this is one of those times. I–yeah, I just can’t.
@asiangrrlMN: You are too kind. If only I could, I would, repay you by throwing you under a bus.
@wasabi gasp: Then we would be even! Thanks for the nice thought.
The sum of two oddballs.
@wasabi gasp: Don’t ever change.
Say, remember that story about Oklahoma high-schoolers being completely stupid because they did badly on a citizenship test ? (badly as in, most didn’t know Washington was the first president of the US, 5% thought Obama was)
I can’t find the post so I’ll comment here…
FiveThirtyEight has an alternate explanation for the data.
A Mom Anon
WTF is wrong with Dan Reihl? Seriously,the very first thing that comes into his pointed head is that the census worker was a child predator? Really?
I think this says alot more about Dan than he realizes. What a twisted,sick fuck.
Since he wrote as such a language scholar and scold what has always struck me as hugely ironic is that when Safire wrote the text for the plaque on the moon for the moon landing he wrote:
“HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON JULY 1969 A.D.WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND”
What’s ironic about that is that he is the only human to have written something that has a legitimate shot at being truly immortal and he committed a grammatical error. The A.D. is supposed to go BEFORE the year.
I may not care, you may not, the aliens who see it a kajillion years from now may not know or care, but he did and I bet it ate at him until the end.
I seriously doubt he introduced strawman. That’s an English Literature term I learned in school years ago. And I mean years ago. I don’t think it would have gotten into English books and the lexicon so fast if Mr. Safire had given us that term back in the 70’s, which was when I was in school.
I hear you, sister…Sam’s lucky he’s cute, ’cause I normally wouldn’t put up with anybody waking me up every 2 hours at night.
@adolphus 7:10 am: what I find even more curious is that he didn’t use the CE designation instead of AD. While it may not have been quite as widespread then as it is now, in 1969 it had been in use for a good century among academics, and a universal event such as the moon landing (“Planet Earth” “All Mankind”) surely deserved the not-explicitly-Christian system of designating dates.
Safire, as an expert on usage and word origins, would have known this. I’m surprised to see A.D. at all in the plaque language given how parochial it seems, especially in the context.
‘jump the shark’ derives from a Happy Days episode, but who first used the phrase?
Nature makes them cute to stop you from killing them. My mother told me this time and again growing up, and now I realize it is true.
Mother of a teething infant
My understanding is that was a deliberate decision to put God and religion into the plaque to distinguish the US from the godless commies and the godless DFH’s.
Personally, I believe that really is the greatest thing he did with his life. And therein lies the tragedy.
According to the preliminary NYT report on his death, Safire analyzed the history of “strawman” and “under the bus” in his column. He didn’t take credit for coining them.
Your local news got it wrong. If they’re anything like our local news, it’s OK. That’s their job.
@adolphus 7:59 am
I expect you’re right. Sigh. I was very much around in those days but it’s easy to forget just how insidiously and thoroughly the Cold War affected the entire culture. I lived in NYC at the time and remember demonstrations because the Bolshoi Ballet (or maybe the Kirov?) was coming to the USA on a cultural exchange program. (“Take your Rooskie hands off of my Tchaikovsky ballets!”)
“Strawman”? No way.
All I know is that is rather suspicious that “Obama Biden” is an anagram for “Media Nabob”
“I know I’ll die in here,” Arkin told Gilson not long ago. “In China, at least I would have a trial and sentence.”
Thrown under the bus– abandoned for reasons of expediency, usually to being roasted by the media. Being thrown under the bus is reserved for people who were on the bus- i.e. closely allied to the thrower- to start with. Similar to the older saying “thrown to the wolves”. See also “slap in the face”.
Brick Oven Bill
After a long day of snowshoeing and wolf-watching, who would not look forward to steeping their teabag with April of the North Woods?
Interesting note: in areas of large scale forced integration of populations granted birthright legal benefits by the federal government, the same legal benefits which are denied to the indigenous population because of their race, the numbers of Glenn Beck 912ers is high. There are over 1000 in a single group in Cincinnati.
In contrast, there are zero 912ers in Fargo, North Dakota and twenty seven in Minneapolis. In North Florida, there are around five hundred. Here is Amanda.
“And so iron will be mingled with silver, and brass with gold, and hence there will arise dissimilarity and inequality and irregularity, which always and in all places are causes of hatred and war.”
This is why Ted Kennedy housed his family in a compound on six acres of Cape Cod waterfront. He desired similarity, equality, and regularity for his children. Concord for the Kennedys, Discord for the Clintons.
It didn’t work out too well though for Ted’s legacy. Pat smashed his Ford Mustang while drunk into the Capitol, telling the police that he was showing up for a vote. He was, of course, ushered away by senior members of the Capitol Police, not given a breathalyzer, and not charged, to avoid Discord for the Kennedys.
In contrast, Bill Clinton has the $100 million Uranium deal in Russia, and with one call, could have the ‘action flick chick’ to the left on his private plane. Bill would not be caught dead in a Ford Mustang.
This is yet another example of the difference between Artificial Law, and Natural Law. This can also be categorized under the effects of excessive nurture. A little Discord now and then is a healthy thing for individuals, and for Nations.
Another incomprehensible column from Douthat this morning. How does someone who can’t organize ideas into a coherent message keep a job in punditry?
Yeah, I guess that is a rhetorical question.
@calipygian: Seriously, doesn’t this open him up to a libel charge? I know we’ve discussed in this forum how difficult it is to bring defamation charges and make them stick, but William Starkman wasn’t a politician. I can’t imagine his next of kin will be in any way accepting of this.
Please post a link to the BJ Lexicon.
Apparently not, unless the law has changed substantially since John Dean wrote this piece in 2004.
Some people say Dan Riehl is an unofficial member of NAMBLA.
@calipygian: There’s an awful lot of information on the Internet suggesting that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl back in the 1990s. I’m not suggesting that Dan Riehl was involved in this horrible crime but I can’t understand why he hasn’t denied it. It certainly raises suspicions.
(Best comment on Riehl’s site. The man is despicable.)
…he committed a grammatical error.
Not to natter, but it appears, rather, that he committed a stylistic error.
Also, I believe Safire took credit for the phrase Smoke and Mirrors, which he introduced as Blue Smoke and Mirrors.
The sad fact is that Safire, like William Kristol, misspent his intelligence and ability on causes that damaged our nation.
Also, I believe he was the first to use the phrase, Put Some Stank on It!
null pointer exception
@calipygian: I am going to go ahead and speculate that Riehl is in fact a pedophile. And I am going to do that right on the sidewiki of his blog.
I nominate Dan Riehl for a Douchebag of the Year award.
Your local news station misread the original release regarding Safire’s death. It said that Safire explained the derivation and etymology of such phrases as “strawman”. Someone wasn’t, ironically, reading for comprehension.
Just for the record, Safire could spell. It’s “nattering nabobs of negativism.”
‘Thrown under the bus.” He must be pleased he coined a phrase that’s 30% of the dialogue on ‘Top Chef.”
No idea who William Safire is, and dont really care. My Bears, Hawkeyes, and Jayhawks won. With 106 yards recieving tonite, Steve Smith wins me another fantasy week. Life is good.
Copyeditor pro tip: It should be “straw man,” not “strawman,” and I hope it goes into the Juice lexicon that way.
Why do you call the WaPo the “Daily Kaplan”? Don’t get that one.
@Brick Oven Bill:
In the old days the Birchers would look for Reds under the beds. Now they look up into the trees for liberals, who they understand to resemble sloths.
Personally, I doubt whether Safire claimed to have invented those phrases, or even to have popularized them. His politics aside, he was a scrupulous and interesting etymologist. I always enjoyed reading his “On Language” column.
As for “straw man,” the Wikipedia entry has an apocryphal story that “originated with men who stood outside of courthouses with a straw in their shoe in order to indicate their willingness to be a false witness.” That sounds a little farfetched to me. It seems more likely that it comes from straw figures created and then “killed” in various folk festivals.
Which I had access to the OED on line. That almost always includes a citation of the earliest known use of the word or phrase.
Steeplejack: Go buy the damn book instead of wishing and whining that you can’t get it for free.
Damn people, don’t make me go to the library!
I can’t tell if you’re going for humor or crabby in your comment.
Anyway, if I could afford it, I would cheerfully pay for the on-line subscription. Used to own the print edition of the OED, but it was lost in the terrible fire of ’02.
Found a typo:
It’s Saffliar, not Safire.
the local tv station probably read the obit from the new york times where they said that in his column On Language, he explored where the phrases “strawman” and “thrown under the bus” came from but transcribed it as he invented the phrases.
When my kids were that age, I used to say that the reason why small children take naps is that in the prior evolutionary history of our species the children that didn’t take naps were left out alone on a hillside for the wolves to eat.
Lucy in the Sky, rest in peace
Interestingly, my OED does not have an entry for “strawman” “straw-man,” or “straw man.” “Strawless,” then straight to “strawnge” (obs.). So no help there.
Look, all I want to know is…who is Action Flick Chick, and why should I go to her website? I mean, other than the obvious reasons.
Hang on, I’ve almost got that copied down: “for the… wolves… to… eat.” Super. Cheers. That’ll come in handy when she can understand what I’m saying to her beyond “Milk?” “Ow!” and “Cat!”
The Washington Post Co. also owns Kaplan, the test prep and educational services business. Kaplan is the only part of the company that is consistently profitable, thereby making WaPo and Newsweek possible. If I were a shareholder, I’d be pissed about management throwing good money down the sewer.
Makes sense. One thing that is clear from the Wiki and other references is that the concept of a straw man has been around for a long time, and has been referred to in legal texts.
And for “Aunt Sally,”
And, as for “throw under the bus,” Wiki has this:
There is a reference to “man of straw” going back to 1898.
E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
I had another comment on this, but it is oddly in moderation. This comment may be in moderation, too. The ways of WordPress are mysterious.
@Brachiator: I think I’ve heard that before: I vaguely remember it being mentioned in Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle or some other historical fiction novel I’ve read . . . or possibly some other random input from who knows where. So many useless etymology facts! And only limited brain space for them all.
@burnspbesq: Should be an entry in the BJ dictionary then, for sure…
@spudgun: It is. Under Kaplan Daily:
Kaplan Daily – The Washington Post, so named because Kaplan is the money-making arm of the Graham family business empire.
OK. They could expand a bit on it, but it’s there.
Ah, so it is. Missed it somehow. Carry on.
@Jay Schiavone: That was Jimmy Breslin with Mirrors and Blue Smoke.
J. A. Baker
We should probably have a definition for the various “Derangement Syndromes” that Charles Krauthammer (directly or indirectly) loosed upon the world:
– Bush Derangement Syndrome
– Obama Derangement Syndrome
– Palin Derangement Syndrome
– [Insert controversial political figure here] Derangement Syndrome
Action Flick Chick at actionflickchick.com reviews action and horror movies, interviews celebs, did convention coverage for G4TV. She has about 27,000 followers on twitter who like her insights and spunk.