Saturday 22 May 2010

Policy Wonks Know It Backwards

The left-winger said all the other candidates were "policy wonks" and "men in their 40s who played football together".
    - Diane Abbott in The Mirror

This takes us to what might prove the biggest problem of all: that four ex-wonks with limited life experience
    - The Guardian

There is, as everybody knows, a figure of speech that if you know something well, you know it backwards. Therefore, if you know something backwards, you wonk it. Hence a policy wonk.

It is the same formation as yob, Llareggub and mooreeffoc, all of which I have blogged upon before. The first words ever said by one human to another were palindromic:

Madam, I'm Adam.

P.S. This is one of those occasions where the OED has clearly got it wrong. They conflate two different uses of the word and then suggest that over-brainy people at Harvard wouldn't spend their time making up semordnilaps.


  1. Aha! As I have always suspected: Russian is merely English spoken backwards.

  2. How did I go through life missing something so obvious?
    Hilarious video.

  3. The Antipodean29 May 2010 at 15:57

    It's interesting, then, how it has morphed from 'to know something backwards' to a back-handed compliment at best, or insult at worst: to know a lot about something in a theoretical or political way which makes you unfit to deal with it in reality. According to the other side, the relevant union, or the press, anyway.

    The word always makes me think of the cartoon voice for someone boring (ala Charlie Brown's teacher): "wah wah wah waa wah wah." Perhaps it was "wonk wonk wonk wonk" all along.