Vladimir Putin, Brittle Oak

Dear Reader (Unless you communicate through weird clouds of pheromones like those ridiculous things in Star Trek Discovery),

So I just finished another lively edition of The Dispatch Podcast. With Scott Lincicome sitting in for Steve Hayes, there was 50 percent more undisciplined jocularity (and 500 percent more neoliberal shilling). Because there were so many topics we wanted to cover—albeit briefly—we opted for an extensive potpourri section. And now I’m way behind schedule getting this thing started, so please imagine me writing this frantically from the front seat of my car as I try to make up for lost time—because that’s exactly what I’m doing.

One of the unwritten rules of writing the G-File (as if there are written rules) is “when in doubt, have fun with words.” So let’s start there.

If you overheard someone saying “extensive potpourri section,” you might think they were talking about Bed Bath and Beyond or the Body Shop or maybe a wing of Gwyneth Paltrow’s home. But potpourri didn’t always mean—generally— a “miscellaneous collection” or—specifically—a mix of dried flowers and other things that smell like unmanly soap or unicorn farts. Its original meaning, via Spanish and French (and before that Latin), was basically stew of rotten meat or “stink vessel.” Pot means pot. Pourri shares the same root as putrid: the Latin “putrere,” which means to rot or decay (think putrescence). Thus the original potpourris were basically the stews people made to salvage whatever crappy meats they had lying around by making them into a stew. That’s where the whole “medley” of stuff meaning comes from—a medley of semi-rancid meats. Olla podrida, a Spanish stew that literally meant “rotten pot” got translated into “potpourri.” You can still find Olla podrida— and other dishes inspired by it—on menus around the world, even though the rotten meat part is (usually) not part of the recipe anymore.

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