Paul Greenberg

"He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash."

Mr. Mencken's description of Harding's oratorical effect, or lack of same, approaches art. That president's prose brings to mind any number of editorials I've read and, much more frightening, some I've written. The only sure cure for bloviation is a sense of humor, which tends to take the wind out of rhetorical sails and give the craft some balance.

Mencken's best stuff had both biting criticism and good humor, and the ideal column should have both. Unfortunately, too many of them have only one dull tone, and nothing is more boring than a piece of rhetoric that never varies in style.

Only when he grew old and bitter, and his reactions reflexive, did Mencken cease to be interesting, that is, cease to be Mencken. Living too long can be an awful thing.

All the best to you. I wish Americans were as curious about other languages as you are about ours.

Glad to be of service ,

Inky Wretch


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.