Official website phrases

N00bs will have to pay attention, for I’m adding two new Official Website Terms™ to the argot used on this website. One has already come into use, and both are pejorative. I’ll be using them from time to time, so best get up to speed now.

“Can’t spot the nightjar”: People too blind to see what’s right before their eyes.

What a very stupid salad”: Someone who says something that is unspeakably moronic.  This phrase comes from David Bentley Hart’s article on Adam Gopnik, in which Hart writes the following words that, he think, constitute a definitive takedown of Gopnik:

Did Gopnik bother to read what he was writing there? I ask only because it is so colossally silly. If my dog were to utter such words, I should be deeply disappointed in my dog’s powers of reasoning. If my salad at lunch were suddenly to deliver itself of such an opinion, my only thought would be “What a very stupid salad.”

As one reader noted, if your salad at lunch were suddenly to start expatiating about the nature of God, your first reaction would certainly be “WTF: My salad is talking!”  Hart’s thoughts are clearly very limited.

And of course Hart himself instantiates both of these phrases.

113 Comments

  1. Posted April 25, 2014 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    sub :)

  2. Marella
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    Since I have NEVER managed to find any of those damned nightjars, I’m not sure that using it as a pejorative for people who can’t see what’s in front of their noses is fair. But what the hell.

    I don’t remember who said it and Google has let me down but “If a petunia spoke to a man, that man would know terror”. Anyone who thinks they would be critiquing their salad’s opinions has no imagination at all.

    • Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:19 am | Permalink

      “Oh, no! Not again!”

      /@

      • Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

        Well, if we knew why the petunia would say that, we’d know a lot more about the nature of the universe.

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        “I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.”

    • John K.
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:28 am | Permalink

      Can’t find the nightjar? I highly resemble that remark.

    • Launcher
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      I’m with you on the nightjar thing. I can never find them! Might Prof. Coyne reconsider the definition to have it connote a situation in which one would understandably NOT be expected to see something right in front of their face? For example:

      “The twisted logic and obfuscated references in that Chopra essay made his argument a real nightjar, didn’t it?”

      or

      “As obvious as a nightjar.”

      • lisa parker
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        I like it. I’ve never been able to find the nightjars, sometimes not even when they’re circled. But I am pretty blind.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      My position is that nobody can actually find the nightjars. A lot of people think they’ve found the nightjar in this or that blob of pixels, and by sheer chance some of them happen to be right.

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        Is this a nightjar which I see before me,
        The beak toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
        I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
        Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
        To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
        A nightjar of the mind, a false creation,
        Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?

  3. NewEnglandBob
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Even if something is unspeakingly moronic, we will manage to speak loud and clear about it. We can’t help ourselves. :)

  4. alex
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Much of Hart is overwrought, aside from being baseless, but let’s be fair.

    The entire point of the salad quip is that the opinion is *so* stupid, its stupidity is even more remarkable than the fact that a salad has an opinion at all.

    • Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:12 am | Permalink

      That may be your take on it, but it’s not immediately apparent to me. (Hart, of course, would claim post fact that that’s what he meant.) And it doesn’t work as a quip anyway because the hyperbole is unbelievable. And it’s not funny or elver, either. It’s not a bon mot, it’s not Dorothy Parker, it’s simply the embarrassing attempt of a man without humor to gin some up.

    • John K.
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:28 am | Permalink

      I took it to mean he thought his interlocutor was dumber than a dog or salad, or more specifically that a dog or salad would have a smarter opinion. Truly an epic facepalm failure of what was intended to be a clever quip.

      • Achrachno
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:36 am | Permalink

        What the heck Hart means is often unclear. He should take a basic course in English composition.

        • gluonspring
          Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:50 am | Permalink

          For him it’s a feature not a bug.

        • steve oberski
          Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:53 am | Permalink

          If you can understand what they are saying it ain’t theology.

          • Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:10 am | Permalink

            Nor could it be quantum mechanics. At least for the latter, the rules will be the same, however.

          • Scote
            Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

            “If you can understand what they are saying it ain’t theology.”

            More like “If you can understand what they are saying it ain’t **Sophisticated** theology.”

        • darrelle
          Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:02 am | Permalink

          You are just not sophisticated enough to understand the sublime intricacies of Hart’s compositions. No reason to feel bad about that, most people are not capable of it. In fact, it may be that Hart himself is the only person capable of it.

          • Pete Moulton
            Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:10 am | Permalink

            And I’m not so sure about him…

          • Achrachno
            Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:43 am | Permalink

            I suspect there’s room for wonder about even him. I doubt his sort of theobabble can be understood by anyone.

    • Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:54 am | Permalink

      That’s how I understood it too. Fair is fair.

      But because I’m a petty person, I imagine Hart could then add “…and if the apple pie says anything, don’t believe it… It LIES!”

      • John K.
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:41 am | Permalink

        But the cake is not a lie!

        • NewEnglandBob
          Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

          “Someone left the cake out in the rain

          I don’t think that I can take it
          ‘Cause it took so long to bake it
          And I’ll never have that recipe again, oh noooooo” Richard Harris – Macarthur Park

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:08 am | Permalink

      If you write is such a way that obfuscates what you are trying to say — especially in a way that a high school student would in order to appear smart…well that writing is just stupid.

      Every time Gopnick or a post modernist writes something like this, Northrop Frye and George Orwell turn in their graves and some poor, innocent Humanities grad has their poetic licence revoked.

    • DV
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      That’s exactly what it means. I’m amazed not everyone found the meaning obvious.

      • gbjames
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        The intended meaning is perfectly obvious: “You’re so stoopid that…”. Everyone gets that. What is generating comment is the absurd fashion in which this (rather childish) thought is expressed.

  5. gravityfly
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    What a nasty piece of work Hart is.

  6. Kevin Alexander
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    I found a recipe online for poached lambs brains salad ://www.metro.ca/recipes/poached-lamb-s-brains-salad.en.html#
    I was wondering if, since both harts and lambs are even toed ungulates, could I substitute the ingredient and would it affect its intelligence.

  7. Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    Two salads walk up to a salad bar. One salad looks at the other and asks, “Who in the f*** is David Bentley Hart?”

    • Alex
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:40 am | Permalink

      What do two salads think when sitting at home at a saturday night? All dressed up and nowhere to go…

    • Todd Steinlage
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      That’s hilarious! Can’t stop laughing (neighbors looking at me funny) :)

  8. Alex
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    I just read it to a potato, and it scoffs at Hart’s attempts at salad based rhetoric.

  9. ken
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    Has anyone considered the possibility that salads talk to Hart routinely.

    • Alex
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:42 am | Permalink

      We may assume that he has a ready supply of word salad at hand.

      • Pete Moulton
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:12 am | Permalink

        Yes, he’s made that patently obvious to the most casual observer.

      • Achrachno
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:46 am | Permalink

        No need to assume! We have direct evidence.

  10. Ian Hewitson
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    To steal from Nietzsche, I guess Hart’s been talking to his salad:

    “Talk to the salad, the salad talks back”.

    I’ll get my coat……..

  11. gbjames
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    That Hart builds into his “quip” the idea that talking salad isn’t peculiar, that the oddity is the content of the speech is the issue tells a lot about the credulity of faith. Talking plants are perfectly reasonable to such a person. Incredible

  12. steve oberski
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    I’m guessing that David Bentley Hart is not going to become an honorary website uncle any time in the near future.

  13. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    I’m delighted that Jerry used leet (l337) correctly in spelling n00b. :D

  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    I hadn’t heard of David Bentley Hart until the posts here in spite of my having attended seminary (I was aligned with Unitarianism). (Hart is both too traditional for my school and ascended to fame quite recently- in the late 2000s.)

    The good news is Hart is against intelligent design.
    The bad news is he considers it “bad theology”.
    (“logically and epistemologically unverifiable arguments regarding irreducible complexity and its crude mechanistic deism and its all-too-immanent god of the gaps”) and the further bad news is that he has published that sentence in a magazine that has published a lot of articles !*defending*! ID (First Things).

    Now Ken Miller also thinks ID is “bad theology”, but spends as much time or more debunking it as bad !*science*!, and he does that !*first*!

    Hart has a prose style that is both snappy and snotty, and is at best IMO a triumph of style over substance, much like the vivacious but hollow prose of William Buckley, Chesterton et al.

    If one is going to have mysticism, I prefer a more sober variety that retains a skeptical mindset such as Bertrand Russell and (I’m hoping possibly) Barbara Ehrenreich (I’m on chapter 5 of “Wild God”).

  15. Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    David Hart and a salad walk into a restaurant. They sit down, and the salad orders a meal for both of them.
    The waiter is astonished. “You know,” he says, “I have never heard a salad talk before! This is amazing!”
    David Hart snorts dismissively, and replies, “it is not at all amazing. Once again it has gotten it completely backwards. It will have the steak and potatoes, and I will have the chicken alfredo.”

    • Alex
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      There is evidence that several best selling authors are actually salads. They merely publish under a human pseudonym so as to be judged by their true literary merit rather than their novelty value.

  16. still learning
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    And if your salad is speaking a foreign language, does that mean it has French, Italian, or Russian dressing on it?

    • Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      They’re all greek salads to me …

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        Caesar would take exception to that.

        • Diane G.
          Posted April 26, 2014 at 12:53 am | Permalink

          Don’t bet the ranch.

          • Posted April 26, 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink

            Y’all’re Russian to conclusions, I fear. Makes me feel a bit Bleu.

            b&

            • DianeAlliLangworthy
              Posted April 26, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

              “Funny,” sesame.

    • teacupoftheapocalypse
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      Ah, but the time to worry is when your salad starts speaking in tongues, especially if you understand.

      • Dominic
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:23 am | Permalink

        lettuce pray

        • darrelle
          Posted April 25, 2014 at 8:25 am | Permalink

          For some reason I can’t really explain that one always makes me laugh.

        • lisa parker
          Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

          That is funny. Not sure exactly why it is more so than the other salad comments, but I almost lol.

          However, no one seems to care what kind of salad Hart is conversing with; Harts of palm, Harts of Romain, artichoke Harts…

          Probably more interesting than the voices in his head (iceberg, cabbage, etc.)

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 25, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

            For me, it is because I imagine a head of iceberg lettuce bending its leafs in prayer & bowing it’s big iceberg lettuce head.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 25, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

              I mean leaves. I blame the Toronto Maple Leafs for my plural confusion.

            • lisa parker
              Posted April 25, 2014 at 11:58 am | Permalink

              Yes; it does evoke a great picture.

            • Posted April 25, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

              Actually, it’s, “lettuce prey.” They’re expressing a desire that they be eaten by a salad.

              b&

    • Alex
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      It would explain why mine are mostly mute – I always do basic oil and vinegar! And here I thought my salads were even dumber that Hart’s hypothetical greens.

  17. Dominic
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    The naked lunch – undressed salad.
    The chamber pot – a night jar.

    • lisa parker
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      That was pretty good, too. Now I’m hungry.

      • Posted April 25, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        I can go along with an undressed salad/hungry connection, but following that …

    • lisa parker
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      That is pretty good, too.

    • Posted April 25, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      That will be pretty good.

  18. Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    What a very stupid salad! I hear the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android when I read that phrase. Anyone else hear it too?

    • lisa parker
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      Not me. My neighbor’s dog Sam keeps interrupting.

    • Posted April 25, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Absolutely. Definitely a Marvinism.

      It always bothered me that his nickname was the “Paranoid Android”. His behavior seemed to me to be simply pessimistic, negative and indicative of depression, but not paranoid.

      • Posted April 25, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        His designers didn’t get anything else right about him; why should they have named him correctly?

        At least he got an apology in the end, though.

        b&

        • john frum
          Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

          As much as I love HHGTTG, I also loved the Dirk Gently novels.
          I saw a British TV series based on it which was rather good if not really matching the original plots.

          • Posted April 26, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

            When I’ve needed a name for a disk of indeterminate needs — one which is going to have to hold, or believe, anything I might tell it, you might suggest — I’ve often been known to name it, “Monk.”

            b&

  19. Pliny the in Between
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    An oldie but goodie of which Hart was no doubt unaware when he penned his ode to the challenged greens:

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/06/16/the-failure-state-of-clever/

    It’s a post by John Scalzi on remembering that in conversation and writing the failure state of clever is asshole.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 26, 2014 at 1:11 am | Permalink

      That was good. Also the comments.

  20. Flo_B
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    To be clear: are we talking “actually visible once you know where it is”-nightjar, or “indistinguishable 10-pixel blop in a fuzzy unfocussed brown area of a low-res picture”-nightjar? :-P

  21. Bess Bibbentucker
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Anyone wishing to hone his or her skillz might want to visit John Scalzi’s website,
    here.

  22. Posted April 25, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    As I’m sure I’ve observed elsewhere, the reason why Hart isn’t surprised at the thought of a talking salad was because he expected it to give magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero. And, presumably, he envisions himself as the reluctant hero and was busy swishing his wang — without success, obviously, which was why he was looking for instruction — at the time.

    b&

  23. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Two lions goes into a bar.

    “I’ll have a bear and a plate of zebra tartar”, says the first.

    “Me too”, goes the second.

    Bartender: “We have only the one plate left. Do you fancy some stripes of Hart?”

    “Oh no”, the lion responds, “I’ve had him and it is salad all the way down!”

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Yikes. The lions wants beer obviously.

      • Posted April 25, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        Actually, I bet most lions really would rather eat a bear than drink a beer. I don’t think there’re many bears in Africa, though. But I’m sure no cougar would turn her nose up at, say, a brown bear cub in order to feed her own litter, if she thought she could get away with it.

        b&

  24. Kevin
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Thing is, I can actually see Hart at his desk, furiously pecking at his keyboard, trying and failing to come up with a clever riposte, and his assistant walks in with his lunch.

    And that’s how a meme is born. Because the clever man had nothing clever to say and turned to whatever was closest at hand.

    Pedestrian. Too prosaic by half. In short, hackneyed work coming from a hack.

    • Alex
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      A hackneyed work from a hack? I would be deeply disappointed by my omelette if it wrote such an awkward attempt at an insult!

      • Kevin
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        Your omelette knows nothing! Nothing, I say!!

        • Alex
          Posted April 26, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

          “”Your omelette knows nothing! Nothing, I say!!”

          Au contraire, my friend, wait till you’ve seen its oeufre…

          • Diane G.
            Posted April 27, 2014 at 1:36 am | Permalink

            LOL!

            That cracked me up.

      • Posted April 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        My tennis shoes are rather dismayed by how little imagination you food-focused people seem to have.

        • Posted April 25, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

          (I had to do a but if translating when they told me, though, because they were speaking in tongues.

          I’m sorry.)

          • Posted April 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, but at least they’re speaking from their soles.

            b&

            • Posted April 25, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

              Speaking of soles, my feet seem to be what I’m using to create these comments, judging by the typos.

              I shall call it type dancing.

              • ladyatheist
                Posted April 25, 2014 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

                Does that make moving sidewalks at the airport auto-corrects?

              • lisa parker
                Posted April 25, 2014 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

                Lead on, good sir

              • Posted April 26, 2014 at 7:35 am | Permalink

                Well, that’s your problem. See, you should be type casting instead….

                b&

              • Posted April 26, 2014 at 7:58 am | Permalink

                The print industry machinery is in a room in the museum near the one with the buggy whip display.

  25. Posted April 25, 2014 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Last weekend I helped friends cut non-native honeysuckle from woods where the plant was choking out wild plums and other desirable new tree growth. My job was to pull the honeysuckle out into piles to burn later, and paint the stumps with poison.

    The biggest stumps were silver dollar size, most were much smaller than that, and the cut surface of the stumps matched the color of last falls’ dead leaves.

    I told the rest of the crew that locating honeysuckle stumps to paint was harder than spotting a nightjar. I expect this phrase is too useful to find itself confined to a single definition.

  26. Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    This is the problem with New Atheism. Everyone is a fundamentalist. Of course Hart doesn’t literally mean that the salad would be stupid. It’s metaphorical. It is as in a moment of infinite bliss, when suddenly and with resounding force, one is whisked mind, body and soul to a place where limitations are removed and everything that ever was, is now and ever shall be melds into one. It is the singular point of ecstasy towards which the Universe is heading. It is the very reason that lettuce can even metaphorically speak. To ask whether the salad takes part in quotidian conversations is to ask the wrong question, the salad’s mind can’t even be said to exist in the way that a pickle or cucumber exists; not only do atheists fail to give the appropriate response to the salad, they fail to realize that a response can’t even be articulated, and they don’t seem to care.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      I would smother it in ranch dressing to shut it up

    • Alex
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      Wow, that is some sophisticated salatheology

    • GBJames
      Posted April 26, 2014 at 12:17 am | Permalink

      “It is the singular point of ecstasy towards which the Universe is heading”

      Kind of like a cheese fondue?

      Indeed to ask, as an apparent fundamentalist, how you know that.

      And do please look up the definition of “fundamentalism”. It does not mean what you think it means.

      • GBJames
        Posted April 26, 2014 at 12:20 am | Permalink

        Sorry for the closing tag fail. :(

      • Posted April 26, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

        (Chris’s comment was parody)

        • gbjames
          Posted April 26, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

          Oops… Sorry.

          Hip replacement just happened… I think the pain pills may be interacting with my cognitive processes. Weird dreams… I probably should keep my mouth/keyboard shut for a while but WEIT keeps me threaded to reality a bit.

          Apologies in advance for future misunderstandings.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 26, 2014 at 9:04 am | Permalink

            Meh. Just roll with it. I’m on here with flu and migraines all the time. What’s a few typos and virtual drool among friends?

            Hope you have hiptastic success with your new hip!

            • Posted April 26, 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink

              lol

              “virtual drool”

            • Diane G.
              Posted April 26, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

              “What’s a few typos and virtual drool among friends?”

              :D

          • Posted April 26, 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

            To be fair, it was a very realistic parody.

            I’d have been right there with ya if I hadn’t recognized his name.

          • Posted April 26, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

            You’re excused. However, you’ve just deflated my hopes that I can expand on that paragraph and pull off a Sokal style hoax. Though, judging by the fantastic Amazon reviews of Hart’s latest work, maybe mind – altering substances are at work across the board.

            • Posted April 26, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

              No, no! The fact that we’re having difficulty identifying it as parody means it could be part of a very successful Sokal-style hoax!

          • Posted April 26, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

            And wishing you a speedy recovery!

            • Diane G.
              Posted April 26, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

              Yes indeed, gb!!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29,608 other followers

%d bloggers like this: