Arkansas Chutzpah

According to the White House's Ron Burgundy Tony Snow, former President Bill Clinton has a "case" of whatever is "Arkansan is for chutzpah."

Snow's comments came in an op-ed for USA Today that responded to comments by, among others, President Clinton, criticizing the Administration's decision to commute Scooter Libby's sentence. (Sidenote: Who knew USA Today had opinions?)

In their coverage of Snow's piece, provided readers with a definition of chutzpah: "shameless audacity; imprudence; brass." Another source, Merriam-Webster calls it "supreme self-confidence: nerve, gall".

I'm no English language expert, but I'm not sure you can have a "case" of this. Either you gots it or you don't. It ain't a disease. (Paging Bill Safire: I expect to read more on this on Sunday.)

And while I'm not going to chalk this up to nuanced anti-semitism (as one easily could), I will chalk it up to confusion on Snow's part. Newsmen have been confused about this word before. In 2005, a Canadian TV Anchor named Jim Walcott made a similar mistake:

Jim Walcott: As you know, I am converting to Judaism. Fascinating religion, with the prayer shawl and that little chutzpah you wear on the back of your head.
Jeremy: Yamulke... it's called a Yamulke.
Jim Walcott: Really? Then the shawl is a chutzpah.
Jeremy: Chutzpah is "gall," Jim. Example of chutzpah: A kid goes into his parents' bedroom, torches the place. The kid is tried for murder. He throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan. That's "chutzpah."
Jim Walcott: Fascinating language.

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