Shambolic sounds illicit—like symbology—but it’s a legitimate word meaning “chaotic or disorganized.” I discovered the word twice in one week: first in a George Will column lamenting the “shambolic syntax” of Donald Trump, then in a Wall Street Journalarticle lamenting the “shambolic styling” of the Bentley SUV.
[There is no] lawyer’s Paradise where all words have a fixed, precisely ascertained meaning…
—James Bradley Thayer (1898)
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.
—T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton (1936)
The Thayer quote reminds me of the Coolio song, Gangsta’s Paradise: “Been spendin’ most their lives / Livin’ in the gangsta’s paradise…” Thayer’s first words, which are usually paraphrased away, reinforce my mental connection: “The Chief Justice here retires into that lawyer’s Paradise where all words have a fixed, precisely ascertained meaning…” Thayer’s Chief Justice needs to spend more time reading poetry.