There’s a nice piece in yesterday’s NYT by William Safire on the origins of the term Moonbat:
There was enough of an e-maelstrom about the coinage of moonbat to lead to the origin. This included the entry in Wikipedia, a free online cooperative encyclopedia that was recently the subject of a New Yorker article and is giving the professionally edited Britannica fits. (Curiously, Eric Raymond, described in the magazine as “the open-source pioneer,” is quoted accusing Wikipedia of being “infested with moonbats.”)
The online source reports that “the phrase was popularized in 2002 by Perry de Havilland of Samizdata.net, a libertarian blog. . .originally rendered as ‘Barking Moonbat,’ suggesting that certain issues seem to trigger a reflexive response from some people much like wolves howl at the moon.”
Reached at the blog he founded, de Havilland says he began using the term in 1999, during his “preblogging days.” He holds that it is nonideological: “Although the term has become beloved by conservatives to describe people on the left, and certainly I think the quintessential moonbat is Noam Chomsky, it is really quite an ‘ecumenical’ term of abuse for dogmatists of any ilk — left, right or libertarian.”
But coiners can’t be choosers; when it comes to political Americanisms, usage determines meaning, and the overwhelming use of moonbat is in derogation of what used to be called “the loony left.” Loony comes from luna, Latin for “moon,” root of lunatic, one supposedly influenced by the moon. Theodore Roosevelt said in 1913 that he had to “fight the silly reactionaries. . .and on the other hand to try to exercise some control over the lunatic fringe among the reformers.”
The association of the left with the moon was advanced by the Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko, who asked in 1979, “What about your Governor Moonbeam?” When the subject of his gibe, Jerry Brown, the former governor of California, considered a run for president in 1991, Royko confessed that it was no “unorthodox lifestyle” that had earned Brown that nickname, but it was “because a guy in Chicago was stringing some words together to earn his day’s pay and tossed in what he thought was an amusing phrase. And if he had it to do over again, he sure as hell wouldn’t.”
From the foregoing, the casual reader might assume that we have the origin of the word moonbat….”
Read the rest.
Now, I’d always assumed – as do many – that the term Moonbat was either:
(a) derived from, and referred principally to, George Monbiot, the environmentalist and – so the urban legend goes – aristocratic scion of the Ducs de Coutard, who fled the French Revolution and changed their family name from Beaumont to Monbiot during their flight; or
(b) a very obscure reference to that strange green puppet, Mooncat, who always used to be on telly at lunchtime, chatting with Beryl Reid, whenever I was home, bunking off school.
But apparently I was wrong.
(Hat tip: Raoul Djukanovic)