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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 14, 2010 / 7 Teves, 5771

Language and Its Discontents

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Dear Foreign Student,

It was wholly a pleasure to get your letter asking for the definition of a word that mystified you in one of my columns: bloviation.

What the heck does that mean, you asked -- in the politest way, of course, as befits a visitor. Sometimes the manners of foreigners puts ours to shame here in the land of the free, the home of the brazen.

You add that you often run across words in my column that you can't understand, or even find in your dictionary.

You needn't be embarrassed; I get the same comment from native English speakers.

A confession: Sometimes I make up a word to get my meaning across, confident that readers will get it from context. Or that they'll be able to puzzle it out. And might even derive some satisfaction from having a new word at their disposal. There's nothing like having a word for something previously unarticulated. It comes in handy as a pocket on a shirt.

Coining words is another way to connect with Gentle Reader, and a newspaper columnist can't make enough such connections. The aim is to make the column as much a part of your morning as breakfast.

Whether you agree or disagree with the opinions expressed in a column matters less than whether I'm communicating in good faith, and good fellowship--and giving you something to think about, even laugh about.

From time to time, I'm told, "I don't agree with a word you say, but you certainly write well." I'd much rather hear that than the other way 'round. ("I agree with everything you write, but how poorly you express it!")

Bloviation is one of my favorite words, which may not come as a surprise in a member of the chattering class. It goes back at least as far as H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), an American journalist whose work appeared mainly in the Baltimore Sun. It means extravagant oratory, rodomontade, inflated rhetoric. … As you can imagine, it has become near about indispensable when describing political speech.

Bloviation's similarity to 'blow,' as in blowing up a balloon or blowing in the wind, is no coincidence, connoting as it does empty rhetoric. Another of Mr. Mencken's informal words, similar in meaning, was gasbaggery. Which I hope is self-explanatory. Both will surely remain relevant as long as politicians give speeches.






Mr. Mencken could be a pretty fair bloviator himself, at least in his old age. But when he was still young in years and spirit, he was a matchless critic of all things American. Consider his classic summary of Warren G. Harding's rhetorical style:

"He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash."

Mr. Mencken's description of Harding's oratorical effect, or lack of same, approaches art. That president's prose brings to mind any number of editorials I've read and, much more frightening, some I've written. The only sure cure for bloviation is a sense of humor, which tends to take the wind out of rhetorical sails and give the craft some balance.

Mencken's best stuff had both biting criticism and good humor, and the ideal column should have both. Unfortunately, too many of them have only one dull tone, and nothing is more boring than a piece of rhetoric that never varies in style.

Only when he grew old and bitter, and his reactions reflexive, did Mencken cease to be interesting, that is, cease to be Mencken. Living too long can be an awful thing.

All the best to you. I wish Americans were as curious about other languages as you are about ours.

Glad to be of service ,

Inky Wretch

Paul Greenberg Archives

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