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I note from Wikipedia that Tim Russert has been a working "journalist" since 1984; before that he worked for Moynihan. His last 17 years have been as a pundit rather than reporter.

Chris Matthews did work as a print reporter for the SF Examiner after his political employment (and one campaign for office) ended.

Stephanopoulos we know about.

I miss David Brinkley.

Exiled in New Jersey

I wrote the following in December 2000 in a piece called "Language Marches On." Seems to me it gets more relevant every day.

My twelve hundred page English Dictionary tells me "pundit" comes from the Hindu 'paydit' which is from the Sanskrit 'paydita', a learned man. The English definition is 'a learned teacher or critic, especially in India, a Brahman versed in Hindu science, laws and religion.' Understand, my dictionary is old, how old I do not know, someone tore off the cover and front piece in a fit of road verbiage.

At times like these I wish I still had the family dictionary, a two volume set of books measuring perhaps fifteen inches by two feet. One had to be really thirsty for knowledge to pull these monsters from their resting place atop my parents' wardrobe. They sat there for years until my left arm knocked them off while my right arm was painting the ceiling of their room when I was about fourteen. They landed on the alarm clock, which was atop this wonderful little centerpost table that balanced itself on three legs. The tabletop survived, but neither the clock nor the legs made it. So much for book learning.

I do wonder what those volumes would have said about pundits and punditry. They were compiled when India was pink on the map and Gandhi was raising all sorts of hell. Could the authors have foretold the future, when journalists worth their salt would be busy reinventing themselves as commentators, with hopes of advancing down the halls of punditry?

The dictionary would undoubtedly have been too dated to note that the word is a fancy substitute for 'talking head', which in itself is a bit dated. In those days, pundit would have more likely been a synonym for 'mountebank', a delicious word, which has disappeared from usage. An example of proper usage back then would have been, "Ignore the pundit behind the screen".

Wouldn't it be lovely to hear a host say, "Let's call in our resident mountebank" rather than 'Let's go to Barney Blowhard, our expert who has been following this issue"? Had Sahib Pundit been introduced that way, we would know he was just blowing smoke when he spoke of 'sea changes' and 'paradigm shifts'.


As somebody who used to occasionally read Chris Matthews when he wrote for the San Francisco Examiner, let's just be clear that he was ALWAYS awful. Nothing's changed.

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