Wingnuts And Moonbats

UJ and I have bemoaned the lack of civility in modern American political discourse. There seems to be a lot of name-calling and not much real discussion — but the real focus of this posting is the nature of the name-calling. I’ve noticed that political liberals tend to call their conservative adversaries “wingnuts,” whereas the conservatives refer to liberals as “moonbats.”

What are the reasons for these choices of epithets?  There doesn’t seem to be any obvious reason for the names and their respective political affiliations.  After all, a wingnut is an actual hardware item — specifically, a type of nut with two protruding metal “wings” that make it easier to tighten the nut by hand.  There are worse things to be called, I suppose, than the name of a useful fastener that no doubt is found in, and regularly used by, households across America.

A “moonbat,” on the other hand, is not a real creature. The name, however, has a certain evocative quality. It is not hard to envision a moonbat as being different from an earthly bat while sharing some of the same characteristics — perhaps similar in appearance to a manta ray, skimming languidly through the lunar skies, white and shimmering, its wings slowly beating against the minimal pull of the Moon’s gravity. There are worse things, too, than being called a dreamy fictional creation.

So maybe things aren’t as bad as we think in the area of political discourse. Sure, people of different political persuasions are calling each other names, but the names aren’t that mean-spirited or hurtful.  In fact, they really are kind of silly.

2 thoughts on “Wingnuts And Moonbats

  1. I believe “wingnut” comes as a contraction of “right wing nut” (although I’ve heard it used to refer to “left wing nuts” as well).

    Moonbat is a compound word made of two words connected with insanity or general disconnectedness to reality. From ancient times, the moon has been associated with madness (hence “lunacy” and “lunatic”).

    To call someone “batty” is to also imply that they are a crazy person. Maybe they’re ranting on the street corner about the voices in their head, or maybe they’re a flake of a more mundane kind.

    Either way, I think “moonbat” gives a sense of an “unrealistic lunatic living in a dreamworld”…which is very much how the Right seems to see the Left nowadays.


  2. Thanks for a very informative comment. I have no doubt that you are right in your analysis of the derivation of the terms. I still maintain, however, that these are pretty gentle labels, given the often extremely harsh tone of modern political discourse. “Wingnut” and “moonbat” seem like the kinds of words you might use to describe a demented, but nevertheless beloved, elderly relative.


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