May 01, 2005


Proving that no topic is too trivial to blog about, here's a passage from Joseph Epstein's otherwise-amusing take on the academic novel in the Weekly Standard:
In Lucky Jim, the setting is a provincial English university and the dominant spirit is one of pomposity, nicely reinforced by cheap-shot one-upmanship and intellectual fraudulence. Jim Dixon, the novel's eponymous hero, striving to become a regular member of the history faculty, is at work on an article titled "The Economic Influence of Developments in Shipbuilding Techniques, 1450 to 1485," a perfect example of fake scholarship in which, as he recognizes, "pseudo light" is cast upon "false problems."
Egad, no. It's "the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems." As in: "It was the perfect title, in that it crystallized the article’s niggling mindlessness, its funereal parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems." A trifle, sure, but Epstein's version not only isn't very funny, it doesn't even make any sense. Wither copyeditors?

Speaking of which, dropping by the coffee shop earlier today, I heard a guy mocking Bush's use of "misunderestimated." But no, I think this is a perfectly valid construction. For instance, if you were to underestimate someone, but ended up, by mistake, not underestimating that person as much as you otherwise would have, you would be "misunderestimating" him. In other words, a set of mistaken impressions caused you to underestimate, but a second set of impressions caused that underestimation to be less than what it would be if the initial set of mistaken impressions were all you had to work with. Voila! Whether this word is useful remains to be seen, but I don't think "antediluvian" is useful (does the distinction between pre- and post- Noah's flood really matter?) and it's still a word.
-- Brad Plumer 5:16 PM || ||