Harvard Professor Opines on Scalia’s “Gollywaddles”

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Last month, Jay Wexler spoke to noted language expert Steven Pinker and asked him where Justice Scalia might have come up with the term "gollywaddles," which Scalia used during oral argument this term in FCC v. Fox Television Stations.  Wexler is a former Ginsburg clerk and prolific writer who has written a book (due out next summer) about the church-and-state dilemma in America.  (He's also a very funny writer whose essays have appeared in McSweeney's and the Green Bag, among other places.)  Pinker is a Harvard psychology professor who has written several books of his own, and who conveniently lives in Wexler's building.

Pinker's conclusion: "I am pretty sure that Scalia made up 'golly waddles' on the spot."  There's more at the link below, but that's the gist of it.

There might be an issue here as to whether "gollywaddles" is one word or two.  The official transcript reports it as "golly waddles," but that could be a transcription error.  Scalia could have intended it as one word – possibly drawing it out in the way Gomer Pyle might have said it? – and the reporter (never having heard the term before, of course) could have transcribed it as two.  I doubt that would affect Professor Pinker's opinion, but we should get it right for posterity.

It occurred to me that the official recording of the oral argument in FCC might answer this question, in addition to the likely substantial entertainment value of, for example, listening to Justice Stevens spell out the word "dung."  Unfortunately, however, it appears that unlike the transcripts, recordings of Supreme Court oral arguments are not immediately available.  The world will have to hold its breath until the National Archives make this priceless information available sometime during the next Court term.

You can read the rest of Pinker's opinion, and more about Jay Wexler's upcoming book, "Holy Hullabaloos," at the link below.

Link:  Holy Hullabaloos