Somehow, I ended up reading the correction from Timothy Noah's take on bullshit before I read the article.
An earlier version of this article mistakenly described these words as adjectives. In fact, they are nouns.To me, the correction's more interesting than the article. (I'm that kind of dullard.)
Here's what was corrected:
How does bullshit differ from such precursors as humbug, poppycock, tommyrot, hooey, twaddle, balderdash, claptrap, palaver, hogwash, buncombe (or "bunk"), hokum, drivel, flapdoodle, bullpucky, and all the other pejoratives* favored by H.L. Mencken and his many imitators?
Mark Liberman at Language Log praised the method of correction: That asterisk after pejoratives links to the correction.
The mistake is not critical to Frankfurt's ideas or Noah's review of them. (Well, maybe it suggests a certain lack of concern for what words actually mean, which is not entirely unconnected to what Frankfurt thinks bullshit is.) However, it does underline a point that we've made again and again in this blog. Most Americans learn almost nothing about how to describe and analyze the sound, structure and meaning of the English language. This includes most American intellectuals, whose degree of ignorance in this area is historically unprecedented. It extends to many of those who are being trained, at the best universities, in the discipline known as "English", and even more strongly to those trained in other fields.
In another post at Language Log, Liberman points out another error. Noah wrote:
Although Frankfurt doesn't point this out, it immediately occurred to me upon closing his book that the word "bullshit" is both noun and verb, and that this duality distinguishes bullshit not only from the aforementioned Menckenesque antecedents, but also from its contemporary near-relative, horseshit. It is possible to bullshit somebody, but it is not possible to poppycock, or to twaddle, or to horseshit anyone. When we speak of bullshit, then, we speak, implicitly, of the action that brought the bullshit into being: Somebody bullshitted. In this respect the word "bullshit" is identical to the word "lie," for when we speak of a lie we speak, implicitly, of the action that brought the lie into being: Somebody lied.
Wrong, Liberman says:
But actually, of the 14 "Menckenesque antecedents" that Noah cites (humbug, poppycock, tommyrot, hooey, twaddle, balderdash, claptrap, palaver, hogwash, buncombe (or "bunk"), hokum, drivel, flapdoodle, bullpucky), four are given a verbal sense by the American Heritage Dictionary: humbug, twaddle, palaver, and drivel.He follows with ample examples and citations.