The Washington Post, July 31, 2012
He goes to London. Insults the Brits. Draws a rebuke from the prime minister. Becomes tabloid fodder.
But the man doesn't rest.
Mitt Romney goes next to the Middle East. Insults Palestinian "culture." Palestinians call him "racist." Says one: Even our worst enemies (i.e., the Israelis) never say such things!
Out of context, Team Mitt cries. He wasn't singling out Palestine. Why, just the other day he made the same point about Mexicans!
Hole dug deeper.
What next in Warsaw—a Polish joke?
And this is just the past few days.
We've reached a rare moment. Sometimes a phenomenon is so unprecedented and altogether singular that existing language doesn't suffice to capture it. This is how language evolves, as new realities inspire fresh coinages to do justice to human experience.
Often our vocabulary expands because of technology. In 2011, 400 words were added to the Oxford Concise Dictionary's tally of 240,000. "Retweet," "sexting" and "cyberbully" were three. ("Mankini" and "jeggings" were lower-tech additions, in case you were wondering.)
Romney's penchant for remarks and behaviors that are false, dumb, tone-deaf, ill-advised, pandering, implausible, awkward, regressive, out of touch or some blend of the above—and which unfold with no apparent awareness of their having the aforementioned qualities but instead are swiftly defended or sidestepped with an arrogance or haughtiness that compounds the offense—has brought us to the cusp of a linguistic breakthrough.
Traditional adjectives just won't do. When Romney thoughtlessly trashed British Olympic preparations, even his allies were left with a sense that modern English wasn't equal to the occasion. ("It's unbelievable, it's beyond human understanding, it's incomprehensible," said my Post colleague Charles Krauthammer on Fox News, before adding, "I'm out of adjectives.")
When Romney says "corporations are people, my friend" or okays the explanation that he "retroactively resigned" from Bain, the mind reels, but the mouth comes up short.
What's the right new word? "Mitticism" might be a serviceable noun, but it feels quaint and obscure. "Mittgaffe" has a fun ring redolent of "McNugget," but it still misses. After all, we're talking about a state of mind, a way of thinking (or not thinking), that goes beyond any single misstep.
No, sometimes only a punchier adjective will do.
I propose "Mitticulous."
Mitticulous means that what Romney does is thoroughly ridiculous yet in its own way very precise—that is to say, Romney is literally "meticulous" in his inanity.
Shall we take it out for a test drive?
Romney told NBC's Brian Williams the other day that he doesn't know a thing about the imminent participation of his wife's horse in the Olympics dressage competition—though he's spent a small fortune to help realize Ann Romney's dream that "one of her dressage horses" would make it to the Olympics. Romney wants us to believe he's not following it at all.
All together now: "That's utterly mitticulous!"
Romney insists the health plan he passed in Massachusetts is totally different from President Obama's Affordable Care Act—though Obama says it was his model, health economist Jon Gruber, who helped craft both plans, says they're the same in all important respects, and every fair-minded analyst who has compared the two agrees.
What can one say? Romney's claim to the contrary is completely mitticulous.
Or take taxes—where Romney says it's urgent that we pass trillions in fresh tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans—even though we're at war, deep in debt and shortchanging needed public investments in R&D and infrastructure.
Romney's priorities are shamefully mitticulous.
Just two years of tax returns? Please—he's being mitticulous. Doesn't recall if he ever paid a tax rate lower than 13.9 percent? What a mitticulous evasion. Vouchers as the chief answer to what ails American education? Another mitticulous ruse.
Romney's gift to English shouldn't be confined to political uses, of course. It's easy to imagine it flowing off the tongue at home. "Honey, you're being mitticulous." "That's the most mitticulous thing I've ever heard." "Nothing could be more mitticulous."
Once we debated missile gaps. Today, Romney's embarrassing foreign tour has exposed the adjective gap that's kept us from expressing Mitt in full. If you've got a better idea for a word that describes what we're seeing, I'd like to hear it.