BILL CRAWFORD: What is a Newt, anyway?

By Bill Crawford

“I chiefly use my charm on creatures that do people harm, the mole, and toad, and newt, and viper; and people call me the Pied Piper,” wrote Robert Browning.
Maybe candidates piping up to be our next leaders should consider Browning’s meaning. Use all that charm on those “that do people harm?” That would make for interesting campaigns!
I can’t help but focus on the part of Browning’s statement that mentions that close cousin of the toad … the newt.
What is a newt, anyway?
The regular dictionary says it’s a “small salamander,” which are neither lizards nor mammals but cousins to toads. They have the unique ability among vertebrates to regenerate lost limbs.
The slang dictionary says it’s a “stupid person.”
So, how do these definitions apply to our modern day Newt Gingrich?
Certainly, Newt’s personal life harmed himself and others over the past years. Yes, he seeks to regenerate his image to recapture the esteem Republicans had for him nearly 20 years ago. He really isn’t stupid, but appears prone to do stupid things. Of course, Forrest Gump addressed this when he told us “stupid is as stupid does.”
When horses stumble badly out of the gate, they seldom win the race. But, I don’t know the speed and endurance of newts. Maybe Newt will surprise us.
Since I picked on one candidate nickname, let me pick on another…Mitt Romney.
The regular dictionary’s primary definition of mitt is of a catcher’s mitt. The slang dictionary says it’s “a hand.”
As the front runner Republican out of the gate, he’s going to be taking a lot of fastballs from fellow candidates, the media, and the religious right. Catch too many high, hard ones and the “hand” starts to hurt. Did last time didn’t it, Mitt?
Guess the key to his prospects will be how many hard ones he has to handle.
Unfortunately, that’s all the nicknames I can make fun of. Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Barack Obama don’t qualify. Neither do “maybe” candidates Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, or Chris Christie.
Same goes for major candidates in Mississippi.
Phil Bryant, Dave Dennis, Bill Luckett and Johnny DuPree don’t qualify. Neither do Tate Reeves nor Billy Hewes, Jim Hood nor Steve Simpson. Nor do Lee Yancey, Lucien Smith, Lynn Fitch, nor Connie Moran. Nor Cindy Hyde-Smith, Max Phillips, Dannie Reed, or Joel Gill. Not even Delbert.
Gosh, were Sonny Montgomery and Buddie Newman our last top leaders with memorable nicknames?
Butch McMillan, may be time for you to leave the Department of Rehabilitation Services and get back into real politics.
Nicknames have a certain charm that might help us overlook the toadyism in today’s all-too-serious campaigns.

Bill Crawford (crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.