Archive | October 2012

30-Second Word Whoop: “Binder”

Three binder clips, one with the arms up, one ...

The binder clip: Pleonasm at work? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world’s gone loopy, on a post-presidential-debate bender with the word “binder.”

A binder can be either a person or a thing that binds — anything from tar to cheese pizza to a leaf of tobacco wrapped around the innards of a cigar. “Binding” can be a verb, adjective or noun — such as the magic at work in the spine of a book.

Its taut meaning has never been at issue.

Until Mitt Romney’s stuffy reference to “binders full of women” — an attempt to boast of broad-mindedness when it comes to female hiring — sparked a collective groan. Was it because the phrase conjures up torturous images of an age-old Chinese custom of binding women’s feet to make them seem more dainty, a practice resulting in foot deformities especially in elderly women, leaving them unable to squat?

Or was it merely too cold and business-like, evoking the notion of quotas and binding contracts, objectifying women as notches in some boss man’s belt of “diversity”? The idea he couldn’t store ideas of women in his head, that he needed a reference book to find any qualified women to hire.

As a wordsmith, I enjoy seeing a household word get its day in the sun. “Bindergate” now lives  alongside such gems — flashes in the pan, really — as Nannygate I and II, Clipgate (Stephen Colbert’s mockery of Fox News’ display of President Obama’s clipped-together jobs bill), and, my favorite, Gategate. 

Up until now, the modifier I most associated with binder was “empty.” Romney aides are bound to have their hands full blotting these memes from voters’ minds.

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