Checking out the redesigned New
Republic today, I came across this bizarre sentence in an
essay by Michael Kinsley:
At this point, before he remarried, [Edward] Kennedy’s dual
reputation for girth and senatorial statesmanship had not yet
overcome his reputation as a party boy.
What does “girth” mean in this context? I honestly have no idea.
I just checked Chambers (no OED
unfortunately), and have found these two nouns*:
“the distance round something such as a tree or a person’s
“the strap round a horse’s belly that holds a saddle in
So Kennedy had a reputation for being in possession of a
(presumably large) waist? This has got to be the most circumspect
way of calling someone fat I’ve ever run across in (pseudo)
As for “senatorial statesmanship,” I’m thinking this is just
some kind of lazy attempt at “style”: alliteration and all that.
But since senator was the only office Kennedy ever held, his
“reputation” as a statesman could never been anything but
“senatorial,” making “senatorial statesmanship” a tautology to
* Urban Dictionary (to which I shall refrain
from linking) tells me that there are, ahem, other definitions as
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Matthew Walther is the assistant editor of The American Spectator.
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