a litany of presidential pecadilloes [also: peccadillos]

Nehir

Member
Turkish
"What's seen as a sin today-drinking, smoking, smoking pot, snorting cocaine, or having sex on the side- to list a litany of presidential pecadilloes that have sparked less and less outrage over the years- may become accepted..." from Public Parts by Jeff Jarvis
What does the writer mean by "a litany of presidential pecadilloes"? Especially in what sense is the word "presidential" used here? Thank you.
 
  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    "Litany" here means a long recitation or list. I'd say that pecadilloes equates roughly to sexual escapades and presidential is here probably as a reference to Clinton, whose sexual adventures were brought before the public as part of the impeachment proceedings. I can't think of any sex scandals with other recent presidents.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    He may not be recent, but U.S. president Kennedy is widely reported to have fooled around quite a bit. Going back a bit further, there were rumors about Franklin D. Roosevelt also, and about Eisenhower while he was directing the Allied invasion of continental Europe in WW II. And that's just sex. Quite a few more did something else on that list. Pretty much all of them drank alcohol, at least a little, and smoking wasn't considered evil until fairly recently. (For that matter, the current president smokes, or at least did up to and during his early days in office.)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    It's hard to imagine that drinking would be considered a pecadillo, but now that I re-read it after Egmont's response it certainly looks like that is the implication. It is a strange statement. It makes me curious about the context.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It's hard to imagine that drinking would be considered a pecadillo, but now that I re-read it after Egmont's response it certainly looks like that is the implication. It is a strange statement. It makes me curious about the context.
    I wouldn't have called it one either, but apparently Jarvis does. The idea that a U.S. president shouldn't be allowed a glass of wine with dinner, or shouldn't be allowed one without someone pointing a finger and going "tut-tut," strikes me as quite strange.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Just wanted to add that a litany is originally 'a series of petitions used in church services, usually recited by the clergy and responded to by the people' (Concise Oxford), and you will still find the term used in this way in some church services.

    The notion that it is a series of petitions is the one that is relevant in the metaphorical extension to the term: there are many items.

    A peccadillo is a minor offence, but it could be used ironically here. (I wouldn't consider having an affair a peccadillo.) I wouldn't consider moderate drinking a peccadillo, unless it is in the context of the Prohibition Era.

    (Note: my dictionary spells the word with two c's.)
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Jarvis' reference may not be to moderate drinking, but an elliptical allusion to the reputed abuse of alcohol by some presidents. Some presidents were thought to have been alcoholics, and President Bush was reported to have had a problem with alcohol that he overcame long before he was president.
     
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