Niggardly Ignorance

In 1999 an aide to the then DC Mayor Anthony A. Williams, lost his job for using the word “niggardly” in describing how he would have to manage a fund’s tight budget. If any of the PC brigade are reading this, you should know that  “Niggardly” means miserly and has no racial connotation whatsoever other than a fallacious (nothing to do with fellatio) one in the minds of the vocabulary challenged.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when MSNBC’s Brian Williams in reference to nuclear weapons said “We are the only nation to have used them in anger“. The vocabulary challenged have got their knickers in a twist yet again by ignorantly interpreting Williams’s sentence as meaning that the USA used nuclear weapons on Japan because of some sort of bad tempered emotional outburst.

The locution: “to use something in anger” simply means to use something for its intended purpose. A shot fired in anger is a shot intended to kill rather than to hit a practice target. A software program used in anger means it’s no longer being tested, it’s now running on a live system.

James Joyce used the phrase in Ulysses:
“I know where he’s gone, says Leneban, cracking his fingers.
Who? says I.
Bloom, says he. The courthouse is a blind. He had a few bob on Throwaway and he’s gone to gather in the shekels.
Is it that whiteeyed kaffir? says the citizen, that never backed a horse in anger in his life?”

The “in anger” part the Joyce quotation is used figuratively; it means “seriously.” The chap may have placed a few inconsequential bets but never big enough money to matter. It doesn’t mean getting angry when a bet is put on a horse.