I learned a new word today! Piffle!
I suppose it is not completely new, as I’ve probably come across it at various points in my life. However, today I read it in Christopher Hitchens’ rather nonsensical gabbling as he added to the right-wing attempt to slander Cindy Sheehan (he referred to her work as “sinister piffle”), and was actually driven to seek a definition. Here’s what I found:
Noun 1. piffle – trivial nonsense, balderdash, fiddle-faddle, hokum, meaninglessness, nonsense, nonsensicality, bunk – a message that seems to convey no meaning
Verb 1. piffle – speak (about unimportant matters) rapidly and incessantly blabber, palaver, prate, prattle, tattle, tittle-tattle, twaddle, gabble, gibber, blab, clack, maunder, chatter, mouth, speak, talk, verbalise, verbalize, utter – express in speech; “She talks a lot of nonsense”; “This depressed patient does not verbalize,” blather, blether, blither, smatter, babble – to talk foolishly; “The two women babbled and crooned at the baby”
My first reaction was that I don’t think that I have ever before come across such truly excellent synonyms for a word.
So, Hitchens is saying that Cindy Sheehan’s effort and message is balderdash and hokem. That holding Bush, our government, and ourselves accountable for the deaths of nearly 2000 Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis is prattle, blither, smatter and babble.
This, I would say, is the fiddle-faddle of those among us who have somehow been brainwashed by the blathering and blethering of our so-called mission to spread freedom and democracy throughout the world. Too bad that Hitchens is not able to recognize that piffle becomes sinister when people die horrible and needless deaths as a result of our imperialistic endeavors, not when Cindy Sheehan acts from a place of moral clarity. Anything outside of that place, be it twaddling or action, is just bunk. Extremely sinister bunk.
ELISA SALASIN lives in Berkeley, California, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of her writings can be found on her blog, Two Feet In (http://twofeetin.typepad.com/elisa/).