Adumbrate or Advocate? Martin Amis writes an open letter to Yasmin Alibhai Brown for her suggestion that after reading everyone's favourite last-living Marxist Terry Eagleton's comments on this, Amis is 'with the beasts' on Muslim-hating. He may have been adumbrating not advocating, but is there another way to describe patronising and smug? Known for his writing, he was, in his day. Bright, some people thought him. This contributuion to thought and debate doesn't confirm either of those beliefs. But that's not my problem.
I've eschewed the word 'sexist' for many years now: I've never even been tempted to use it, but really 'patronising and smug' won't do it. They don't get into the crevices of my reading of Amis's letter. Sexism, as a word, is a crude and instant response to what was usually a crude and instant attitude to women. I'm after some other word that conveys what it is when in 2007 someone publicly responds to a woman making a point by hoping 'Yasmin, for your soothing hand on my brow!', suggesting 'you've been listening, rather dreamily perhaps' to Eagleton, and repeatedly using her first name. Oh, Martin, Martin, what's the word I'm looking for? A friend suggested 'cunt' - as in 'What a cunt', and in truth that would do it for me. But I'm trying for a more writerly way of describing this middle-aged man's laboured tone. There's something of the travelling salesman trying to keep his end up. What's the word for that? Pathetic? Yes, pathetic. I think that will do.