Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Needed: a word other than meddle

To meddle in an election? There must be a word that better captures the enormity.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of meddle: “to interest oneself in what is not one’s concern : interfere without right or propriety.” M-W gives a sample sentence from George Bernard Shaw: “I never meddle in other people’s private affairs.”

From Webster’s Second, a more eloquent definition: “to interest, engage, or concern oneself unnecessarily or impertinently; to interfere improperly.” And from a W2 note on meddle and related words: “To meddle (with or in) is to concern oneself officiously or impertinently with another’s affairs.”

Notice: to interest oneself in what is not one’s concern; to concern oneself officiously or impertinently with another’s affairs. Meddle suggests individual interference in another person’s life. To meddle is to be a buttinsky or a Nosey Parker, to plant doubts, to offer unsolicited advice, to ask questions to which the only proper response is None of your B.I. bizness! To engage in a well-funded operation to sow national discord and sway an election: that goes well beyond meddling.

More appropriate words: to interfere in an election, to subvert democracy. “Russian meddling” is too trivial a description of what’s gone on. I’m going to avoid using it.

I don’t know what B.I. stands for either. But that’s what we said in Brooklyn.

comments: 2

Fresca said...

This reminds me of how Emma Thompson said the old euphemism for "sexual abuse" was "bothered," as in an older woman asking a younger,
"Meddle" does seem too mild, but then, there's also, Will no one rid me of the meddlesome priest?

Michael Leddy said...

I didn’t know the Emma Thompson observation. Thanks for that.

Yes, there is meddlesome, which is about the state, but also a matter of the personal, no? One king, one priest.