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Words, Oct. 9



Sports maven Jim Harris quotes from an article in the Arkansas Times about a police raid on a suspect's home: “ … and shot him five times, including one bullet that pulverized his left femur.”

“That's some bullet,” Harris writes. “Sounds like a cannon.” He cites a dictionary entry on pulverize — “1. To pound, crush or grind to a powder or dust.” “2. To demolish.”

I'm not sure what kind of weapons the police had, but it's possible the writer exaggerated. Writers do. Reality sometimes lacks readability; that's where we journalists come in.

At any rate, I'm steering clear of this potential difference of opinion. I know Harris is a hunter, and thus has easy access to firearms. The writer whose usage Harris challenges doesn't carry, so far as I know, but he doesn't need to. He's big enough to go bear hunting with a switch, as Dizzy Dean used to say. I say to both parties, take it outside.


Stephen Colbert has a book out called “I Am America (And So Can You).” I was reminded of it when I saw a quote from Cindy McCain in the paper — “I have, and always will be, proud of my country.”

Mrs. McCain's husband has been called, often by himself, a maverick. The word has come to mean “a lone dissenter … one who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates.” Originally, it meant “an unbranded calf,” and it was derived from the name of Samuel A. Maverick. Safire's Political Dictionary quotes a story about Mr. Maverick:

“Old Man Maverick, Texas cattleman of the 1840s, refused to brand his cattle because it was cruelty to animals. His neighbors said he was a hypocrite, liar and thief, because Maverick's policy allowed him to claim all unbranded cattle on the range. Lawsuits were followed by bloody battles, and brought a new word to our language.”

In politics, maverick is becoming meaningless through misuse. What the mainstream media call a maverick is someone who agrees with the mainstream media's beliefs. Truly independent thinkers are called radicals and extremists.

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