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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jerry Brown's Word of the Day: Procrustean

Posted By on Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 11:11 AM

click to enlarge Jerry Brown, flashing the vocabulary...
  • Jerry Brown, flashing the vocabulary...
Badger Jerry Brown enough and he'll admit he's learned something through a lifetime in politics. But it appears he hasn't yet learned how to speak in the Phil Hartman-as-Frankenstein-FIRE BAD! language that has propelled Meg Whitman to the top.

Countering a wordy question from a Time Magazine interlocutor, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee fired back an even wordier answer, highlighted by the GRE-level selection "Procrustean."

Per Time:

When I ask him if this sort of impatience with the self-perpetuating

nature of bureaucracy is something that he has developed since serving

as mayor of Oakland and attorney general, he responds; "You're trying

to fit me into this procrustean notion that you have of me. You're

trying to say that I've changed. Well, yes, people change. I've

changed, but the ideas have been consistent. But I've learned, O.K.?

Does that make you happy? I've learned."

For what it's worth, "procrustean" here essentially implies an effort by the reporter to pigeonhole Brown into conformity. Jerry's word of the day is derived from Greek mythology.

click to enlarge Leave Jerry alone!
  • Leave Jerry alone!
"Procrustes" means "the stretcher" and was the nickname for the murderous Damastes -- who stretched those who were too short to fit on his iron bed to death and sliced the appendages off those who were too tall to fit. To be fitted onto the "procrustean bed" implies unthinking and harsh conformity regardless of one's own unique attributes. So there you go. Meanwhile, Whitman just spent another few million on monosyllabic commercials.

Incidentally, "procrustean" wasn't the only Jerry moment in the Time story. The former resident of a Zen monestary offered this koan-like bit of wisdom: "If I say I've learned anything, then it means I didn't know anything

before. If I say I didn't learn anything, then I'm not learning


Well, we learned something: The definition of "procrustean."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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