Aren't politicians marvelous?

Just when we thought nothing, positively nothing, could get us interested in the particulars of Rep. Paul Ryan's budgeting process, President Obama goes and picks a language fight.

"(Mitt Romney) said that he's 'very supportive' of this new budget, and he even called it 'marvelous,'" Obama said of his GOP opponent's take on Ryan's (R-Wis.) proposal. "Which is a word you don't often hear when it comes to describing a budget.

"It's a word," Obama teased, "you don't often hear generally."

Oh, bring it.

Obama's top strategist David Axelrod tried to throw some water on the firestorm. "I think that was a small, throwaway line in the speech," he said the next day on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Thankfully, Romney's people kept the duel alive and kicking. Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom tweeted a Politico article with three examples of Obama using the very word he just dissed—once to describe his lovely wife. ("She's doing a marvelous job.") Once to describe the words of Martin Luther King Jr. ("It is right for us to celebrate Dr. King's marvelous oratory.") And once to describe Chile. ("Our marvelous surroundings today, just steps from where Chile lost its democracy decades ago, is a testament to Chile's progress.")


We asked Mr. Superlative himself, Arthur Plotnik, to weigh in. Plotnik penned the delightful "Better than Great: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives," (Viva Editions), in which he implores us to find more creative descriptors.

"Most of our household budgets could be called marvelous in the original sense of the English word — causing wonder," Plotnik says, "since we sit there wondering how the heck we're going to make it another week."

(Marvelous comes from the Anglo-Norman "merveillus," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and dates back as early as 1,100 in Old French.)

"Now that the word has evolved into a general superlative, equal to superb or excellent, we might favor a more modest term for our spreadsheets," Plotnik says. "Like 'done!'"

How about when you're talking about a larger-scale budget, such as, oh, the federal government's?

"OK, state-of-the-art, if they used the latest version of Excel," Plotnik says. "Endearing, to party members. Maybe meritorious at best.

"But marvelous? I have only to think of comedian Billy Crystal's revival of that mannered term when he went around quipping, 'Dahling, you look MAH-velous.' He wasn't addressing debits, credits, allocations and expenditures; and for anyone to do so with that term, it kind of makes you, well, wonder."

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