David Brooks Falls Victim to the Damp Squid

Times columnist David Brooks, considered by his Times colleagues as a Republican that Obama can do business with, has the persona of a sophisticate who may well admire the cut of the president's jib (whatever that means).

But Brooks (or his copy editor) fell victim to the dreaded "damp squid" in his Friday column "The Big Society." The correct phrase is "damp squib," a Britishism for an event that fails to meet expectations.

The Big Society started in part as a political gadget, as a way to distinguish the current Conservatives from the more individualistic ethos of the Thatcher years. It has turned out to be something of a damp squid politically. Most voters have no idea what the phrase "Big Society" means. But, substantively, the legislative package has been a success. The British government is undergoing a fundamental transformation.

A squib is a small explosive device; a damp one would fail to perform. Squids are already damp, rendering any reference to their dampness redundant. The Times also used "damp squid" back in 1999, but a Nexis search indicates the paper has employed it correctly on 13 occasions.

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