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News » Deep End

Salivating Over Salacious

Gary Herbert finds a new word to chide his opponent and excite his supporters.


On three separate occasions in the increasingly acrimonious gubernatorial campaign, Gary Herbert, universally acknowledged by his dear friends to be a decent, honorable man, has accused Peter Corroon not only of being horny, but also of having an excessive and indecent interest in sexual matters, up to and including a fondness for leaping on and subsequently mounting female animals (to give Herbert the benefit of the doubt, we must infer that the referenced female animals are limited to the species homo sapiens).

Being the decent man that he is, and not wanting to rub the face of the Utah electorate in indecent and lubricious locutions, Herbert, a known sesquipedalian, went to his thesaurus and found a fancy word to describe his opponent’s libidinal proclivities. When Herbert (or one of his loyal functionaries) came across the word “salacious,” he got very excited indeed, and the word is now used at every opportunity.

It’s a juicy word that rolls off the tongue with slippery sibilance, with onomatopoetic hints of lecherous pleasures of the lingual and labial variety. Just mouthing the word gives rise in many people to tumescent sensations, and the frequency with which the Herbert campaign uses the word suggests that they are not immune to the stimulation.

Because the Utah electorate has little recourse to salacity, the word “salacious” might not be in the everyday lexicon. If you consult a nearby dictionary, you will find a definition similar to the one in Merriam Webster—“arousing or appealing to sexual desire; lecherous, lustful.” Instructive synonyms can be found on any online dictionary: concupiscent, goatish, horny, hot, itchy, lascivious, lecherous, lewd, libidinous, licentious, lubricious, randy, lustful, wanton.

Even more instructive is the etymology of “salacious”: Latin salax, from salire, to move or leap spasmodically, as in a male animal leaping on a female in sexual advances.

The first known use of “salacious” by the Herbert campaign came shortly after KSL reported on Herbert giving state contracts to donors with deep pockets (the most prominent being the $1.7 billion I–15 rebuild of I-15 in Utah County, which was awarded to the company that gave Herbert over $80,000 in “campaign contributions.”). Spokeselder Don Olsen (often confused with Don Wilson, Jack Benny’s rotund announcer) chided Corroon for calling attention to the blatant corruption, huffing, “The only thing that’s controversial out there is the governor’s opponent’s false and salacious comments” (Deseret News, September 15). [Emphasis added, here and below.]

The second use of “salacious” came the next day, when the accidental governor himself employed the word in his indignant public letter to Corroon: “This is a formal request that you repudiate the false and salacious 55-page document your campaign produced.” Then, during a debate on September 23, Herbert completed a nifty hat trick with yet another accusation of Corroon’s unseemly goatish sexual behavior: “It’s salacious and it’s an attack on my integrity,” said the obviously agitated political hack. Maybe Herbert was afraid Corroon was going to make a ruttish leap in his direction.

Normally, politicians caught on the take immediately start screaming “smear,” and assert their integrity, decency, honesty, et cetera, et cetera. Herbert, God bless him, is no different, but connoisseurs of corruption are already praising Herbert for taking the smear maneuver to a whole new and audacious level. Calling Corroon “salacious” is a smear to beat all smears, and Corroon has demonstrated great restraint in not leaping, sexually or otherwise, to his own defense.

Now, some few supporters of Herbert might, at a stretch, assert that the repeated charge of salaciousness directed at Corroon, is not so much a smear as it is sheer stupidity. Maybe the agitated accidental governor wanted to use a word such as “fallacious,” or “malicious,” but instead got brain wires crossed, or fell victim to the Bush Syndrome, in which dim-witted public figures try to sound smarter than they really are and totally screw up their syntax or produce comical malapropisms.

Another school of thought is that Herbert’s use of “salacious” is a Freudian slip, an unconscious acknowledgement, through projection, of him being in bed with his wealthy contributors. Whatever the case, Herbert functionaries would be well advised to spend more time helping the notoriously insecure man with his vocabulary flash-cards, or purchase him a used copy of the classic 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary.