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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Moonbat Patrol!

This William Safire column explores the etymology of "moonbat". He correctly ascribes it to Perry de Havilland of Samizdata (see here), but I believe that he errs in writing:

"The prevailing put-down of right-wing bloggers is wingnuts; this has recently been countered by the vilification of left-wing partisans who use the Web as moonbats..."

I thought it was the other way around, that "wingnut" began to be used in response to "moonbat".

I'm afraid that as a put-down, "wingnut" simply doesn't have the cachet that "moonbat" has. Wingnuts have always been with us. A wingnut might be anybody -- a genuine loon, or just someone with whom you stupidly disagree. But being a "moonbat" means a special quality of lunacy, above and beyond the call of the wild.

By the way, Perry insists that he did not mean for "moonbat" to be applied solely to lefties, but does name Noam Chomsky as the ur-moonbat.

After getting that sorted out, Safire slogs on, determined to discover the source of the River Moonbat -- that is to say, the first use of the word itself. He finds it (provisionally) in the Robert Heinlein story "Space Jockey" (Saturday Evening Post, April 26, 1947), where it was a rocket stage. BUT, Heinlein also used the word a year later in "The Black Pits of Luna" (Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 10, 1948; both were subsequently collected in The Green Hills of Earth), where the "Moonbat Patrol" was apparently a scout troop.

"Moonbat Patrol" would be a killer name for a blog. Exploring the Black Pits of Lunacy! I'd do it, but I've got my hands full, what with my constant posting on this one. Anyone who wants to take it, be my guest.

Anyhow, congratulations to Perry on his etymmortality.

Bonus linky: The Heinlein Society.