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Pie Wagon

Dear AC,

What's a "pie wagon"? This term was used by an ultra-right wing journalist referring to the plainly dressed women at the democratic convention. It sounds both really mean and really childish.

Just Curious,

Lisa

Dear Lisa,

You're right, that is certainly not very nice. Here's a little background for readers who missed the brouhaha - USA TODAY hired right wing columnist Ann Coulter to comment on the Democratic National Convention last week and left wing filmmaker Michael Moore to write about the upcoming Republican convention. The newspaper was unhappy with her column and asked her to edit it. When Coulter refused, they replaced her with conservative writer Jonah Goldberg and she posted the rejected column on her web site.

Although USA TODAY editor Brian Gallagher said that Coulter was dropped for "weaknesses in clarity and readability", it seems likely content may have also played a part in that decision. The comment on Democratic women from that piece is fairly representative of the general tone:

My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call "women" at the Democratic National Convention.

So what does pie wagon mean? Well, the original pie wagons were, not surprisingly, trucks for transporting baked goods. Later, in the 1950s and 60s, they were drag racing cars made from those old delivery trucks. Pie wagon is also slang for a police van used to transport multiple arrestees, more commonly known as a paddy wagon.

But Coulter is using a fourth and far less common meaning of the phrase. Pie wagon in her column means a fat woman. This may come from the wide shape of the vehicle, but it is no doubt also related to the obvious fact that eating pies tends to make one fat.

Corn-fed, which she uses earlier in the paragraph, is a variation on that theme. It can mean both provincial and fat (the idea being that country people have both the same diet and shape as the farm animals they keep). Coulter, who is herself exceptionally thin, also believes that Democratic women are hippie chicks. This comment implies that the women embrace outdated 1960s values, including a natural appearance she seems to find distasteful.

Since I actually live in Boston, where the convention took place, I can confirm that although the crowds were not noticeably fat, flat-chested, hairy, or smelly, many women were, in fact, wearing sandals - not surprising, since it was July.

Your pal,

A. C. Kemp

August 3, 2004

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