Saddam saves ``despot''

From Lecter@obscured.DCU.IE Fri Oct  4 11:19:15 2002
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From: James Raftery <Lecter@obscured.DCU.IE>
Newsgroups: redbrick.babble
Subject: Popularity of "despot" (was: Re: Iraqi VP proposes duel to resolve conflict)
Date: Fri, 4 Oct 2002 10:16:32 +0000 (UTC)
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Jonathan Lundberg <> wrote:
> Well he would have a distinct advantage in that he is a 
> mad raving despot

The world does have one thing to thank our esteemed Iraqi leader for; he
has single-handedly revived the fortunes of the word ``despot''. Its
popularity had been flagging for a long time, it has to be said.
Excluding Saddam-talk, when's the last time you heard someone use

I can't remember a single occurrence myself. Now I can't walk through
town without hearing an outraged cyclist yell ``despot!'' at an
inconsiderate motorist or sit in a taxi for more than ten minutes before
the ``despots in the Dail'' come in for a roasting.

As an aside, was there a notice in the paper recently that I overlooked?
One that required, under pain of death, the use of ``despot'' when
describing Saddam? It looks that way. The uniformity of language about
him is slightly irritating. One can only take so much cliched pastiche
before it starts to grate on the inner ear. However the uniform
application of a nearly dead word is kind of spooky.

I wasn't really paying attention when Pol Pot was doing his cha-cha-cha
through the killing fields but I'm led to believe he so embodied the
notion of a despot that ``polpot'' almost got taken on as an accepted
synonym. Unfortunately Saddam doesn't have such a sonorous name --
reason enough to bomb him, surely -- for linking with ``despot'' but
maybe there are other options.

 ``Sad-damn you!'';
 ``You want to post anthrax to the US? Are you Hussane?''
   (Hussein/insane - clever, eh?)

I imagine the editors of the concise OED had despot flagged for
relegation to the desolate wasteland of the full edition. What lay ahead
for it was literary ruin; a life of being challenged during bitter,
late-night scrabble -- ``That's not a word!'' -- and the motherfucker
crossword clues only your mother can solve.

Saddam changed all that. Despot is back in the vocabulary du-jour. It's
almost hip, though ``hip'' certainly isn't. Maybe he's not all bad. He
has killed many, many people but has rescued a fine word. Credit where
it is due.

"You just grab the handle with both hands, put your left foot up
 against the wall and wank."
        - A novel approach to opening a magnetically locked door.

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