Schlubs of the World, Unite!By John Willson for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC
I’ve been reading Bill Kauffman’s immensely entertaining, and very serious, Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin. This is Bill’s attempt to get us antifederalists back into the discussion. One of my Straussian friends (a friend, truly!) once described himself as the federalist on our campus, while Willson is the antifederalist. Bill and I agree, I think, that my friend is a nationalist and we are the real federalists. Well, anyway, Bill speaks on p. 61 of antifederalist objections to the “flagitious” slave trade. It’s a great word. It seems to mean something like “wicked,” although to use it to describe the slave trade probably leans more to “villainous” or “disgustingly heinous.” A few pages later, however, we find this remarkable sentence: “One cringes to read the diffident James McHenry of Maryland schlubbishly confessing to the convention on September 17 that although he dislikes ‘many parts of the system,’ he will affix his signature because ‘I distrust my own judgement….'” “Schlubbishly” is an even better word than “flagitious,” because it is just as apt and even more obscure. It doesn’t appear in my Webster’s Universal, nor in my OED (although I admit to having only the compact edition). One easily finds “schlemiel,” “schmaltz,” and “schlock,” but no “schlubb.” Aha, William Safire to the rescue! He describes “an ad placed in the personals by a schlub reading: Sweet Jewish guy,40. No skeletons, no heavy baggage. No personality, either.” (NYT, Oct.5, 2003) It turns out to come from the Polish Zhlob (“blockhead”) and in Yiddish becomes something a bit stronger than “nebbish.” A schlub is”a crude individual lacking in social skills and blessed with insensitivity, clumsiness, and no manners.” Well done, Bill. We poor schlubs blew it in Philadelphia because we were dazzled by the light of the Great Washington and the Great Franklin. I just don’t see why we continue to be dazzled by the light of the Great Obama. Schlubs of the world, unite!