May 6, 2012

"When not shouting profanities at the chefs, bursting into noisy and prolonged bouts of flatulence during the traditional tea ceremony..."

"... insulting and belligerently interfering with my crew by petulantly flashing his cell phone camera directly into their eyes while they were working ('I’m a journalist! I’m allowed!'), this guy was drinking himself stupid. It was only through their infinite mercy—and perhaps no small amount of pity for this elderly and shambolic creature, that my crew did not punch his face in. They were sorely tempted. Anyone who attended the event will surely recognize which particular steaming dribble of ordure I’m talking about."

Who is Anthony Bourdain talking about?  Guesses are accumulating here.

By the way, what's with the word "shambolic"? I just realized I've been coasting complacently on the meaning of that word for years, conflating it with the song "Shambala" by Three Dog Night. But Bourdain can't be saying anything about washing away our troubles, washing away our pain, and everyone being lucky and everyone being kind.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that "shambolic" grew out of the word "shamble," perhaps influenced by "symbolic," and it means "Chaotic, disorderly, undisciplined." It was "Reported to be ‘in common use’ in 1958," but the first quote provided is from 1970:
1970   Times 18 June 9   His office in Printing House Square is so impeccably tidy that it is‥a standing reproach to the standard image of shambolic newspaper offices.
For a second there, I grasp at the theory that Three Dog Night really is behind "shambolic," but the song only goes back to 1973.

15 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

I love that Three Dog Night recording.

My college friends and I adopted a similar word with different etymology. It also ends in "holic", and it describes offensive behavior.

Phil 3:14 said...

Read the Bourdain piece and the other and I'm asking myself, other than Bourdain;
Who are these people and why should I care?

edutcher said...

If "it was 'Reported to be in common use in 1958'," I don't recall it.

Granted, I was 10, but I was also a kid who read the dictionary for fun at that age (I know, weird...).

ricpic said...

Ashamed to say I didn't know the meaning of shambolic. Great word.

A lot of people have a problem with Bourdain. I don't. Likable guy, at least from the impression he makes based on No Reservations.

ndspinelli said...

Bourdain is like scotch, an acquired taste. I have read all his books and he writes like he speaks. He is a NY liberal but he is also open minded which makes him unique. He's a former coke/heroin addict and certainly a highly functioning alcoholic.

I don't care if someone is right or left as long as they have an open mind. Someone as much into all different types of food has by definition an open mind. I hate cheapskates and picky eaters as does Bourdain.

Petunia said...

Shambala or Shambhala is basically another name for Shangri-La.

I knew what shambolic meant. :) Shambles, shambolic.

Chip Ahoy said...

It's a British thing. When I read the word shambolic I immediately saw Gordon Ramsay doing the speaking. Then when I read the name Bourdain I knew that Bourdain has been listening to Ramsay.

TheFunkyDonutMan said...

Beastie Boys had a song called "Shambala," too. Not a remake of the Three Dog Night but a retro-funky instrumental which has Buddhist monks doing that crazy chanting that Buddhist monks do. Ok, not as good as the Three Dog Night version. So I surmise that probably Shambala is a Buddhist term. I'm sure it could easily be checked on wikipedia.

wyo sis said...

I always thought Shambala had to do with sham as in not real then combined with a mythical place like Valhalla. Now that I think about it Valhalla was not at all peaceful. Such are the imaginings of a 21 year old listening to music in 1973. It was not a clear thinking age.

KLDAVIS said...

It was Jeffrey Steingarten, no doubt about it.

traditionalguy said...

My first thought was Bloody Mary in South Pacific offering to sell shrunken heads "fo dollah" while singing about Bali Hi.

it would mean a messy culture by our standards.

yashu said...

He is a NY liberal but he is also open minded which makes him unique.

Yes. Shoot, he's friendly with Ted Nugent! That's a hell of an open mind.

Funny how whenever he does a show on San Francisco he thematizes the following tension: hippy-dippy lovey-dovey capital of self-righteous PC (for which he feels undisguised contempt) vs. bloody-meat-eating hard-drinking hard-boiled town of vice (which he loves).

I like Bourdain a lot.

CachorroQuente said...

I would have expected the word "shambolic" to refer to something akin to a very bloody murder scene or to a slaughterhouse; something like a shambles.

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Amartel said...

A boycott of every entertainer who has ever said something stupid would leave a great dearth of entertainment.

Bourdain the gonzo travelin' chef way is genuinely entertaining albeit occasionally embarrassingly emptyheaded and whiny. Especially the Lebanon show where he and his crew had to be evacuated due to Syrian aggression in that country; the whining and Bush-blaming went on and on. On the other hand he was great on the episode when he went upriver, Apocalypse Now style, and encountered some (former?) headhunters who did not agree with his political views. Plus, he seems to be a fan of the Ramones. He's more entertaining than not, more perspicacious than not which is why his little episodes of selective blindness irritate so much.