Monday, October 27, 2008

Swooning for 'oleaginous'?

I love good language, and was amused by this liberal blogger who paused amid an article blockquote to "swoon" for Robert Draper's use of the phrase, "the oleaginous Alaska network dominated by Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens."

This is actually a clever double entendre. Oleaginous means "oily," and certainly oil is a major factor in Alaska politics. But the secondary meaning of oleaginous (when applied to a person) is "slick" or "slippery," especially someone who greases their way to success with obsequious flattery. You can easily imagine that the Alaska old-boy network is crowded with characters like that. So oleaginous works both ways in this context.

A really clever phrase is always a pleasure, as with Tim Cavanaugh's description of L.A. Times columnist Tim Rutten as a "sanctimonious endomorph."

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