Sunday, July 30, 2006


Academic Aggrandizement: Green Republicans and Crunchy Conservatives
by pam ashlund

There are times when someone pens a really good title, where that title actually compels me to read that tome. Rod Dreher has written such a title, let it speak for itself:

Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party)

It even brings a smile to my face on re-reading. In 1995, when Keith Schneider wrote The Green Republican, I thought that was a great title. A Green Republican, yep, but a birkenstocked burkean crunchy con? How cool is THAT?

Gordon Durnil tried his hand at the multi-adjective title with less effect “THE MAKING OF A CONSERVATIVE ENVIRONMENTALIST With Reflections on Government, Industry, Scientists, the Media, Education, Economic Growth, the Public, the Great Lakes, Activists, and the Sunsetting of Toxic Chemicals”

Crunchy Con, Green Republican, Conservative Environmentalist? All the same idea, but one, just so much funnier than the others. “Crunchy” is one of those self-deprecating phrases that for some reason has stuck over the years. One still hears California referred to as the “land of fruits and nuts” in the mid-west, but I don’t think the average Californian would even get the joke, more or less have heard the phrase. Likewise, who (under forty) even knows that calling someone a “crunchy granola” type was a reference to the hippy practice of baking ones own granola (I tried it once, it wasn’t bad)?

TANGENT: In her article “No Mark of Distinction” Jennifer Jacobson writes about the literary debate over the use of the colon in titles. Now there is a serious topic to stay up nights worrying about. The funny thing is I read this article in the SF Chronicle back in the 90’s and it has influenced my opinion on the lowly colon ever since. I got the same glowing sense of intellectual superiority that washes over me every time I hear someone say “irregardless” instead of “regardless”.

META-TANGENT: Got into a heated argument the other day about whether “irregardless” was a real word. I grabbed my Websters to prove my point and found (to my dismay) that the incorrect use of this word had been upgraded to “common usage” and therefore was the second acceptable form of the word! I don’t know why it comforts me, but at least Microsoft (and by inference Bill Gates?) still recognizes “irregardless” as a spelling error.

But back to colons (and it is really hard not to side-track to a conversation about IBS)…Apparently academics are not thrilled with the overuse of the colon or semi-colon. To quote a quote (probably academically distasteful too) Jacobson quotes Armato from the Minnesota Press as saying "The traditional university-press titling protocol is the interesting title that grabs your attention, followed by what is the real title of the book, which is what comes after the colon".

That setup (title colon real title) does imbue a book with an aura of importance. But sometimes, just the colon itself can add clout. One may wonder, why does “Hawthorne: A Life” sound so much better than “Hawthorne’s Life”? It’s the dramatic pause of course!

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