The Republican car-crash last week took many much loved figures with it, not least conservative senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum.

An arch-reactionary, Santorum has campaigned for the teaching of “intelligent design” in school science courses, suggested that people stranded by Hurricane Katrina should be prosecuted for not heeding weather warnings, and argued that paedophilia scandals in the Catholic church were the fault of morally relativist liberals.

But he’s best known for his comments arguing that homos-xuality, as a lifestyle choice, could not be qualitatively distinguished from paedophilia or bestiality.

Sadly for Santorum, as an early sign of the times, that last initiative got the attention of a section of the gay community, who promptly took the term “santorum” as a name for the – well, how to put this in a way that will not cause Crikey’s filth filter to explode? – the byproduct of an encounter between lubricant and another substance whilst committing the love that dare not speak its name.

After the campaign was adopted by humorist Dan Savage in 2003, it really took off, and the aim – subsequently achieved – became to not only have it adopted as an unremarkable noun in the discussion of matters s-xual, but to increase its internet use to such a degree that googling “santorum” will get you the substance rather than the senator. Eventually, it’s hoped, the noun will outlive the man and take its place with “boycott” and “gerrymander”, albeit of a more icky type.

It’s proof of two things: one is that the times they are a changin’, again, and two, that much of the world is captive to people with far too much time on their hands. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty good response to the notion of fisking – somewhat fallen into abeyance now that Robert Fisk has been proved substantially more correct than most of his critics – and may even catch on in Australia, where it will of course be known as Santoro.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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