Words of note

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 Journal article lamenting the “shambolic styling” of the Bentley SUV.

To my surprise, symbology is also legit, though Dan Brown took some flak over it. Even legitwhich dates back to 1907—might be going legit!

English! How epically shambolic!

In honor of Tax Day

The Wall Street Journal, April 13, 1935, p. 1.

UPDATE: 5/28/22

In the “nothing new under the sun” department, President Biden has been arguing since last summer that his multi-trillion-dollar spending proposals will reduce inflation and budget deficits. See Biden Argues Massive Government Spending Will Help Fend Off Inflation, Not Exacerbate It (July 19, 2021); and Biden Emphasizes Deficit Reduction in Bid to Pass Economic Agenda (March 18, 2022).

The lawyer’s lament

[There is no] lawyer’s Paradise where all words have a fixed, precisely ascertained meaning…

—James Bradley Thayer (1898)

Words strain,
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.