Brain Dropping #129
Etymology. I love the origins of words and phrases. The other day I said: “I’m on tenterhooks!” – meaning nervous expectation, or excitable impatience. I finally got around to finding out where it came from.
A tenter is a frame with hooks for stretching cloth for drying or for manufacture. I remember my mother using a similar frame with nails for drying curtains.
This led me to wonder about the origin of “chickenshit” applied to a coward, or an act of cringing deference, or a worthless and contemptible organization. I use this word a lot in reference to the most dangerous source of news on the planet – no, not Fox News! – The New York Times – the ‘family newspaper’ – the newspaper of ‘record’ which purports to print “All The News That’s Fit To Print.”
Fox News, even to the most somnambulant viewer, is so flagrantly full-of-shit that only troglodytes
whose frontal lobes have not evolved, are taken in. Ahh! But the “Grey Lady” (The old nickname for the Times.) knits its fabric of deception quietly and unobtrusively like Madame Defarge at the foot of the guillotine. Distortion, omission, burying, are techniques employed on a daily basis to make the news fit the paradigm of the status quo. But its benighted, loyal readership seem to believe that they are being truly informed about contentious world affairs.
Judith Miller and Jayson Blair represent the tip of the iceberg. In my view, the lack of editorial oversight in the case of Judith Miller’s mendacious reporting on Iraq and the lie of WMD’s makes the NYT complicit in war crimes. Jayson Blair’s fabrications went on for way too long for a newspaper which considers itself the “newspaper of record.” As far as that phrase goes – “the newspaper of record” – it is a non-sequitur used by careerist journalists too chickenshit to stand up for the truth.
Here are two glaring examples, one from a few years ago and one from today’s headlines. When, on June 25, 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney told Vermont’s Senior Senator Patrick Leahy to: “Go fuck yourself!” on the Senate floor (having to do with an argument about Haliburton profits in Iraq), the NYT reported the incident in this chickenshit style: “The Vice President used an epithet not suitable for a family newspaper.” Well, which is it – “The newspaper of record” or “a family newspaper?” And today, January 14, 2015, five days after the slaughter of twelve people at the French satirical newspaper Hebdo, the Times has refused to print the cartoons of Mohammed, when many other American news organizations have. Several years back, the Times refused to print the cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed printed in a Danish daily broadsheet which ignited a world wide controversy.
As I said above: “Chickenshits!” I never did uncover why chicken-poop has become synonymous with groveling cowardice. If I find out I’ll let you know.