Is a ‘prat’ the same as a ‘ratbag’?

I’ve come across a new blog, Pointman, that contains good essays, some of them on ‘climate change’, and one post published a year ago has come to my notice. It was about the ‘prat principle’. Now I think ‘prat’ is an English term, though you’ll hear it in Australia from time to time. Exactly what is a prat? Here is Pointman: ‘If you consult the Urban Dictionary, you should get an idea of the shades of meaning attached to it; “clueless person of arrogant stupidity”, “Basically someone who’s a major idiot, or is delusional and dumb. Acts against logic and thinks he’s self-righteous”, “Someone who is full of themselves and, almost invariably, stupid as well. With a hint of deluded.’

As Pointman goes on to say, it is the complete equal-opportunity insult.  Black, white, yellow, Jew, gentile, Muslim or Hindu – anyone can be a prat. Though it’s actually a gender neutral term, its usage is mainly directed at men, since they appear to have a greater propensity for acting like prats. Intellect is no barrier to being a prat either. As a matter of fact, it’s people who’ve had some education or at least think of themselves as some sort of intellectual, who are most prone to acting like a prat. All this from Pointman.

More. ‘Prats always have a cause and it’s always a very fashionable one. Once in a while, the cause is quite obscure but it’ll always be stylish. Within a few minutes of first meeting them, they’ll have moved the conversation around to it, just to impress on you how very special a person it is you’re meeting. That crowbar gear change in the direction of the conversation, usually sets off the alarm bell but by then you know it’s too damn late. It’s time to start work on an exit strategy.

‘They tend to suffer from what psychologists call escalating behaviour patterns. They can somehow sense there’s something wrong in the reception that greets their monologues. What the ordinary sane person would interpret as blank stares of badly concealed incredulity and stunned silence, they somehow see as a failure on your part to understand the vital importance of what they’re telling you. To help you out, they repeat, simplify and exaggerate every point and the delivery becomes more and more dramatic, which stuns their audience into silence even more, so they exaggerate even further. By the time you meet them for the first time, they’ve long ago reached the Nth exaggeration. It can be quite a bracing experience.’

Oh dear, how accurate, and you wonder whether or not you have every been guilty of such behaviour. I push that thought right out of my mind, and think quickly of a few people who fit the description, and indeed they all have causes. Pointman has some suggestions for avoiding them or, if caught, vacating the area. One of them I have already begun to use — a sudden start, a quick ‘Excuse me’, a rapid exit accompanied by the withdrawal of the mobile phone from the pocket, and a quick movement to another place altogether. Pointman says that a different ‘Excuse me’ with a consequent departure for the toilet comes with the polite necessity of returning to the same place. Here Pointman advises you ‘to hide yourself in the toilet for at least ten or fifteen minutes with people banging on the door, in the hope that you’ve given them enough time to get bored with waiting for you and move off to persecute someone else, before you eventually reappear’. This guy is funny.

‘Climate alarmists, especially the prominent ones, are prime examples of being a prat. Because they’re on a mission to save the entire planet, it’s pursued with an almost religious zealotry, which in conjunction with escalation, forces them to say increasingly ludicrous things, to get us to recognise how important that mission is and how noble they’re being.’ Amen to that. And he gives some familiar examples of the hyperbole — familiar at least to those who follow the ‘climate change’ issue. Here are a few. I’ve seen them before, but can’t vouch for their absolute accuracy, and Pointman doesn’t give chapter and verse. But I don’t think they’re inventions.

Al Gore:  ‘the interior of the earth is extremely hot, several million degrees’;  James Lovelock: ‘billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic, where the climate remains tolerable’ (he has since resiled from this position, so you don’t have to continue to be a prat); James Hansen: ‘The cceans will begin to boil’; Gordon Brown: ‘We have fewer than fifty days to save our planet’; Dr David Viner of the UK Met Bureau in 2000: ‘within a few years winter snowfall will become a very rare and exciting event. Children just aren’t going to know what snow is’; and back to Al Gore in 2008 ‘The entire north polar ice cap will be gone in 5 years’.

Pointman says there are other words for ‘prat’, and lists them as ‘Klutz, Drongo, Dork and Galah, which get close but don’t quite ding the bell’. I agree with him about that, but offer instead ‘ratbag’, a choice Australianism that I believe does fill the bill and ding the bell. A few years ago, I was involved in a little consultation with one of the dictionaries about the precise meaning of ‘ratbag’, because I felt that the entries so far had missed out on two elements. One was that a ratbag does go on and on about his or her obsession, and the other that ratbags are given to self-delusion. You understand at once when someone refers to a third person as a ‘religious ratbag’, a ‘feminist ratbag’ or a ‘free-market ratbag’. They are prats.

 

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