Coinage of the realm

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arugulance.jpgI seem to have started something.

I made up a punny word for the headline of a 2007 blog post on Barack Obama's lament, at an Iowa campaign appearance, about the high price of arugula at Whole Foods Market. A few other bloggers, including Michelle Malkin and see-dubya, picked up on it. (The graphic at right is by reader Tennyson.)

The word in question -- "arugulance" -- appears to have gained some degree of popular acceptance. Barry Popik, the pop-culture etymologist who searched out the origins of New York City's "Big Apple" nickname, has traced the term from its origins to the present. It appeared in a headline over Maureen Dowd's April 18, 2009, column: "The Aura of Arugulance." The copy editor appears to have pulled it from San Francisco restaurateur Alice Palmer's quote in the story about being derided as a food snob: "I'm just put into that arugulance place. I own a fancy restaurant. I own an expensive restaurant. I never thought of it as fancy. People don't know we're supporting 85 farms and ranches and all of that." It's interesting that she uses the term without defining it, suggesting that she doesn't perceive "arugulance" as an obscure word.

A day later, Josh Friedland at The Food Section offered a definition of "arugulance":

a·ru·gu·lance (noun): a (perceived) attitude of superiority and snobbery manifested in an appetite for pricey -- yet delicious -- peppery greens.

On April 20, an alternative definition was offered by Isaac Seliger at Grant Writing Confidential:

Ordinarily, I don't read [Maureen Dowd's] column, as she is usually even too cynical for a inherently cynical and grizzled grant writer like me. This time, however, the headline caught my eye because it used the term "arugulance," which I learned is shorthand for the arrogance of the grow local/buy local/shop at Whole Paycheck movement.

The next day, Urban Mennonite called "arugulance" "one of five words with which I am newly in love."

An October 2008 entry on Target Rich Environment about Philadelphia talk radio host Michael Smerconish takes Smerconish's unfamiliarity with "arugulance" as an indicator of the host's lack of contact with conservative thought:

He's embraced the Huffington Post and other left-of-center sources for some time, and seemingly ignores all voices on the right (for example, when a caller a few months ago brought up Obama's "arrugulance," Smercommie had no idea what he was talking about).

The blogger takes it for granted that by sometime in early 2008, arugulance is already in common use on the conservative side of the blogosphere.'s link in April 2008 seems to have launched the term's currency among conservatives.

It would be interesting to know the path the word took to get from Michelle Malkin and her readers to Alice Palmer. Like an underground stream, it disappeared for some distance before re-emerging. At some point it must have crossed the conservative-liberal linguistic divide. Or it may be that a lover of wordplay in Palmer's circle of acquaintances independently coined the term.

"Arugulance" won't have the impact of "blogosphere," but it fills a niche.

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I'm glad you came across my reference to "arugulance" in my recent post at Grant Writing Confidential ( As grant writers, we are always looking for new words and I was delighted to find arugulance at just the time I was writing a proposal about getting poor folks to use urban farmers' markets. Hats off to you for inventing a wonderfully descriptive word. Also, because of President Obama, all of our proposals are now filled with references to things that are "transformative" and "transparent." So, maybe I'll use "transformaparenting" in my next family support services proposal to describe parenting skills training. Perhaps this word will catch on and the two of us can have a word inventing contest.

"Transformaparenting" -- great!

See-Dubya said:

"This will end up hurting the Obamessiah worse than any of his boneheaded foreign policy moves."

Me, Aug. 13, 2007.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 27, 2009 12:17 PM.

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