I didn’t bother reading Scalia’s dissenting opinion in yesterday’s DOMA decision, but after hearing about his creative word usage, I had to go back and check it out. This marks the first time I have ever searched a PDF for the term “argle-bargle.”
Here it is, on page 22 of Scalia’s dissent:
As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion, whatever disappearing trail of its legalistic argle-bargle one chooses to follow, is that DOMA is motivated by “ ‘bare . . . desire to harm’” couples in same-sex marriages.
I find Scalia to be a bit of a toad, but today I’m grateful to him for enlightening me as to the existence of this fabulous word. However, I’m finding conflicting opinions as to what it actually means.
Judging from context, Scalia is using it to mean “flimflam” or, as my MacBook’s built-in dictionary defines it, “copious but meaningless talk or writing; nonsense.”
Yet I can’t find that definition anywhere else. Merriam Webster’s online dictionary points out that it’s a variation of “argy-bargy” — which, cool, two new words at one shot! — and defines it as “a lively discussion.” Dictionary.com confirms that it means “argy-bargy” or “a wrangling argument or verbal dispute.”
Turning to hardcopy sources, my Random House Unabridged says it means to argue or haggle. And my personal source-to-end-all-sources, the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, says it means to “exchange (words) in argument” and refers me to argy-bargy, which it defines as “dispute, wrangle.”
Seems to me that “legalistic argle-bargle” is exactly what Supreme Court justices are supposed to be engaging in. Perhaps Scalia should have checked a few more dictionaries.