A light discussion use of the word 'pundit'
| As I sipped my morning coffee, I was startled to see a pontificate of pundits jogging up the road. I am not sure that 'pontificate' is the collective of pundit, but doubt that anyone else has ever researched this issue either, so I am staking a claim. They seemed to be babbling to each other as they ran, their blue shirts and power ties catching the gray morning light just right.
The dog barked furiously. I knew what was wrong. I opened the door and shouted to them: "The TV studio is the other way, you fools." They were too busy, and I too inconsequential to notice. One did call out to me; "Did the spinmeisters come this way?" I replied that they had turned left at Pinto Ranch Road.
My twelve hundred page English Dictionary tells me "pundit" comes from the Hindu 'paydit' which is from the Sanskrit 'paydita', a learned man. The English definition is 'a learned teacher or critic, especially in India, a Brahman versed in Hindu science, laws and religion.' Understand, my dictionary is old, how old I do not know, someone tore off the cover and front piece in a fit of road verbiage.
At times like these I wish I still had the family dictionary, a two volume set of books measuring perhaps fifteen inches by two feet. One had to be really thirsty for knowledge to pull these monsters from their resting place atop my parents' wardrobe. They sat there for years until my left arm knocked them off while my right arm was painting the ceiling of their room when I was about fourteen. They landed on the alarm clock, which was atop this wonderful little centerpost table that balanced itself on three legs. The tabletop survived, but neither the clock nor the legs made it. So much for book learning.
I do wonder what those volumes would have said about pundits and punditry. They were compiled when India was pink on the map and Gandhi was raising all sorts of hell. Could the authors have foretold the future, when journalists worth their salt would be busy reinventing themselves as commentators, with hopes of advancing down the halls of punditry?
The dictionary would undoubtedly have been too dated to note that the word is a fancy substitute for 'talking head', which in itself is a bit dated. In those days, pundit would have more likely been a synonym for 'mountebank', a delicious word, which has disappeared from usage. An example of proper usage back then would have been, "Ignore the pundit behind the screen".
Wouldn't it be lovely to hear a host say, "Let's call in our resident mountebank" rather than 'Let's go to Barney Blowhard, our expert who has been following this issue"? Had Sahib Pundit been introduced that way, we would know he was just blowing smoke when he spoke of 'sea changes' and 'paradigm shifts'.
Once again I date myself. "Sea change" is at least three to four years old and is fading fast. "Paradigm shift" went out the door with the bull market. They were powerful while they lasted, though. They could be combined in the same sentence, and were many times. 'Well, Bret, I think the voters have produced a sea change here, a veritable paradigm shift in the alignment of the planets." A phrase like this could be used to describe elections for either Congress or the People's Choice awards.
The pundit pontificates, a word not from the Hindu, but rather another of those nouns that have been verbiated. The old one-volume-sans-cover does not even list the possibility of using it as a verb, but in our world, nothing stops language on the march. Do pundits know that when they pontificate, they have become a Pontifex, a 'member of the council of priests forming the central body of the Pontifical College, the highest priestly organization of Rome'?
I am sure they know this, and are proud to be members of this august body, where having an opinion is the main qualification. Politics stops at the College edge, and that is why those running by my house this morning were right wingers, left wingers, single wingers, double wingers and Deborah wingers. After pontificating, they will go out together for a beer.
So I watched them run on up the hill and over the crest, to head down the other side to Route 203. I wonder if they saw the Tsunami that was following them. See, I know how to speak Pundit-ese too.
Readers may want to check out the follow-up to this piece, "JODY WALLAH"