May 25, 2007

It's Really Too Orwellian to Obey

by PG

From David Schraub: "Noam Scheiber wants to turn 'Goodling' into a common noun (as in, 'The Bush administration cleaned house at FEMA and repopulated it with a bunch of goodlings.'). I kind of like it as a verb though, as in 'that department was running fine before it was goodlinged hardcore.'" The trouble with Schraub's desire to verb goodling, however, is that it sounds like a gerund already, which means the proper verb form actually would be "it was goodled hardcore," and then that clause just sounds inappropriate for a family blawg.

TNR commenter tlcastle says, "It's too perfectly Dickensian to resist," but I think the wrong writer is being invoked. "Goodling" is too simple and basic a descriptive name to associate with the man who gave us Thomas Gradgrind and Josiah Bounderby; Dickens liked names fulsome with connotation. Goodling sounds flattened and doublespoken, a name for a world of political binaries rather than one rich with social absurdity. It reminds me of nothing I've read so much as the passage early in the "Sword in the Stone" section of The Once and Future King, when the Wart lives among the ants, for whom all is either good or not-good. ("Sword in the Stone," incidentally, predates 1984 by a decade; I don't know whether Orwell's depiction of totalitarianism drew anything from White's.) Because I find totalitarian allusions depressing, I am not going to adopt Scheiber's use of Goodling as "meaning hyper-partisan hack."

Note, incidentally, that Scheiber's definition is explicitly political, whereas tlcastle's -- "the clueless, dimwitted, earnestly religious prude placed in positions of undeserved authority, busying themselves with trivia like naked statues instead of, you know, enforcing and obeying the law" -- is far more social and thus Dickensian (comic rather than ironic). Gonzales may be a Goodling for Scheiber, whereas Ashcroft is one for tlcastle. Given the recent revelations of Ashcroft's resistance to NSA surveillance by executive fiat, this strikes me as quite appropriate. Ashcroft may be the earnestly religious prude, but he's hardly a hyper-partisan hack, in contrast to Gonzales, whose value seems to have been primarily in his loyalty to Bush rather than any peculiar initiatives of his own devising.

May 25, 2007 08:10 AM | TrackBack
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