Mar 22, 2021

A Visit With My Consulting Etymolgist to Help Translate Newsomisms

Meet Dr. Random Shotski, celebrity interpreter

By Ed Goldman

I’m sure that many of you have a consulting etymologist on staff, as we do here at The Goldman State’s HQ. He’s been helping me navigate the shoals, icebergs and barrier reefs not only of word usage but also of overwrought nautical metaphors, like the one I just used.

Dr. Random Shotski is the only etymologist I know who can also write pharmaceutical prescriptions, making him a fave among retired grammarians with eczema. A Polish émigré who puns he’s “a Slav to his profession,” he meets with me monthly to help me translate California Governor Gavin Newsom’s media updates into English from their original English.

Edgy Cartoon

Gavin a Wonderful Time

Newsom’s neo-Esperanto language has turned California into the “Snow Me State.”

He says California “practices pluralism” and he extolls California’s diversity with talk of our “practicing pluralism” and living within a “web of mutuality.”

“When he endorses early childhood education, he speaks of the synaptic ‘pruning’  of the infant brain,” writes Ben Christopher of CalMatters.  “If the crowd isn’t following along, they don’t show it. But sometimes even reporters are stumped by the intricacies of Newsomian English. Rather than use a word like ‘perspective,’ for example, Newsom favors ‘frame.’ ‘Situational,’ likewise, means ‘short-term.’ He speaks of ‘iterative processes,’ ‘foundational principles,’ and policymakers who ‘lack intentionality,’ when most humans might simply say ‘trial and error,’ ‘values’ and ‘don’t have a plan.’” 

Cal Matters, by the way, clearly defines itself as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.” (Note to Newsom: See how easy this can be?) 

Anyway, I called in “Doc Shots,” his preferred moniker, because he’s the one who first explained to me that the color-coded safety tiers for COVID-19 established by Newsom’s administration were not, in fact, the same color-coded system used to warn us of terrorism attacks in the early part of this century. The newer system was established to warn us about the biggest enemy facing us, as a people—which turned out to be us, as a people.

The good doctor explained in clinical terms Newsom’s switcheroos—about business and school openings and closings and re-openings and re-closings; why his own kids attend an in-classroom private school; what he must have been thinking when he attended that infamous unmasked indoor dinner party with lobbyists at the fabled French Laundry restaurant in Yountville at a pivotal moment in the pandemic—after urging the rest of us to mask up and not gather in groups; and why he always smiles inappropriately while giving us bad news.

“In my analysis, he’s pomylony,” Shotski said, who fortunately brought along his own italics. “That’s a Polish word.”

“And what does it mean, Doc?”

“It translates roughly as ‘looney tunes.’ —Look, can I have a sandwich or something? You ask me over at lunchtime and all you offer me is a glass of Evian water. Is this the American hospitality I dreamed of as a child?”

We went to an outdoor café in the Little Kraków section of California’s capital. (Surprised at our internationalism? Well, as you might have read 19 years ago, a Harvard study found that Sacramento was “the most diverse city in the United States.” The researchers apparently couldn’t find New York, Chicago or Los Angeles on their Thomas Brothers map.)

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We split a jumbo pierogi and shared a half-bottle of Jabol, a very cheap Polish wine. I never like my consultants to think I’m rolling in Bitcoin here at The Goldman State, where subscriptions may be free but I half-expect I’ll need to start paying readers before long. Doc Shots asked if we could go off the record when he shared his further opinions of Newsom with me. “Of course,” I said, completely lying.

“Simply put—even simply enough for you—he doesn’t think the rules apply to him,” he said. “These would include the rules of grammar, syntax and diction.”

I asked Doc Shots if he thought Newsom would be recalled, noting that the signature gatherers collected well beyond the 1,495,709 signatures required.

He sipped thoughtfully on what was left of his glass of Jabol. “Well,” he finally said, “I’m sure that once he leaves office someday, we’ll always recall him.” He chuckled. “That’s a little etymology joke. No extra charge.”  

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).