February 25, 2004

"Don't burlesque me." That's a quote from Ralph Nader, speaking to Chris Matthews on Hardball Monday night. When is the last time anyone used that word as a verb in normal speech (as opposed to an English literature lecture)? It was a dictionary-perfect way for Nader to defend himself against Matthew's caricaturing attack:
bur·lesque... transitive verb: To imitate mockingly or humorously: “always bringing junk . . . home, as if he were burlesquing his role as provider” (John Updike).
What possesses political candidates to use words that either can't be understood or that make people think of them as weird or out-of-touch? Howard Dean opened himself up to ridicule when he said:
In the South, people do integrate religion openly, easily into their lives, both black Southerners and white Southerners. I understand that if I'm going to campaign for the presidency of the United States, I have to be comfortable in the milieu that other Americans are comfortable.
Ah, well. Actually, I find the candidates a bit adorably nerdy when they lapse into this kind of bookish vocabulary. One likes to think they've studied a bit over the years.

Nader, on Hardball, exemplified the nerd's hostility to the popular kid when he couldn't stop remarking on George W. Bush's scholarly inadequacy. He's not well-read! I'm sure the people will rise up in outrage when that message gets out.

An interesting sidelight: Matthews said he voted for Bush in 2000! Racking my brain to think of why, I could only imagine it has something to do with Matthews oft-expressed theory that the people want the candidate they picture with the sun on his face. Of course that theory spells doom for Ralph Nader. But that doesn't matter. Nader's only in for the japery.

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