13

New York Times (July 21) reported the resignation of Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary under the headline, “We’ll miss you, Sean Spicer.” It follows:

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, has resigned. But first, he slammed the door in an ABC News reporter’s face. Reports indicate that Mr. Spicer quit because President Trump had appointed Anthony Scaramucci White House communications director. After all that’s happened in the last six months, for Mr. Spicer, The Mooch was a bridge too far.

From TheNewYorkTimes.com .

Oxford online Dictionary defines “mooch” as a noun;

  1. (British) an instance of loitering in a bored or listless manner.
  2. (North American) a beggar or scrounger.

But neither of them seems to apply to “the Mooch” in the above quote. What does “The Mooch was a bridge too far” mean?

  • 9
    "The Mooch" is a nickname for Scaramucci. "A bridge too far" means that Scaramucci was more than Spicer could contend with--Spicer didn't think he should become communications director. – Xanne Jul 22 '17 at 5:55
  • 2
    Yes, the nickname is confirmed in this article in Rolling Stone – RaceYouAnytime Jul 22 '17 at 5:56
  • 1
    Subsequent to the above article, there came up an article written by Maureen Dowd under the title “The Mooch and the Mogul” in July 23 New York Times. It reads; "But in his first turn at the White House podium Friday, the natty Scaramucci easily outdid Spicer, who in his first outing had upset the president by wearing a suit that was too big. The Mooch instantly showed he knew the point of his job was not communicating with the reporters assembled before him. The point was communicating with the needy egomaniac in the Oval Office." It seems to give a hint about who the Mooch is. – Yoichi Oishi Jul 23 '17 at 21:31
  • 3
    @YoichiOishi Remember that Scaramucci’s name, being Italian, is pronounced ‘ska-ra-mooch-y’. That's where it comes from. I'd never heard the nickname before, but seeing it in context, I immediately understood it. It's a very typical American thing, taking one or two syllables of someone’s last name and adding the to make it a nickname, possibly (if it's meant to make the person sound cool) with a suffix like -ster or -meister appended (think of Steven Stifler from the American Pie movies, who often called himself the Stifmeister). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 23 '17 at 21:40
  • 1
    @ Janus Bahs Jacquet. Thanks for your imput. Also Washington Post (July 22) article comming under the title, clearly states it's the nick name of Scaramucci: ” Scaramucci spent nearly three decades on Wall Street and earned the nickname “The Mooch.” . – Yoichi Oishi Jul 23 '17 at 22:20
14

The term a bridge too far is a bit like the final straw (...that breaks the camel's back).

It derives from the film A Bridge Too Far (1977), which was a dramatisation of the British airborne attempt to hold the Rhine bridge at Arnhem in September 1944. Other bridges en route to Arnhem, at Eindhoven and Nijmegen, were successfully held intact for the main column to cross. Despite seizing the town of Arnhem behind enemy lines and holding the bridge for three days, the Paras are eventually overcome by German tanks, with the main attack unable to relieve them. One of the British commanders is attributed as having said something like we have gone for a bridge too far.

| improve this answer | |
  • +1 Do you have a source for the A Bridge Too Far theory, or do you just know? – Dog Lover Jul 22 '17 at 11:21
  • 3
    It is interesting that WS2 derives "a bridge too far" from the movie of that name rather than the book, by Cornelius Ryan, that movie was based on! – user248944 Jul 22 '17 at 12:20
  • 2
    Though it's not an ironclad argument, Google Books contains no uses of "bridge too far" prior to Browning using the phrase while planning Market Garden. The earliest use seems to be the 1968 issue of History of the Second World War, "No. 73: Arnhem", which quotes Browning. Not sure where they got it, but people present at the meeting were certainly alive at the time. – Xerxes Jul 22 '17 at 17:35
  • 1
    @DogLover No I don't have a source. But it comes up on a search with The Free Dictionary. I have seen no references to the term that would predate Browning's said usage of it in 1944. – WS2 Jul 22 '17 at 18:03
  • 1
    @MarkBeadles People do use expressions such as "The Yorkshire Ripper committed a murder too many", or "... a comment too close to the truth" etc. "A bridge too far" does seem to belong to a well-used form of irony. It was not as innovative a turn of phrase as some may be suggesting. – WS2 Jul 23 '17 at 0:15
5

It is probably worth noting that mooch is a very old term with different meanings. This is not to say that any of these meanings lies at the origin of Mr. Scaramucci nickname, which is most likely due to the assonance with the last part of his surname "mucci".

Mooch:

  • It’s actually a most interesting word, one which has been around on the margins of the language since the fifteenth century with a set of meanings, none of them pleasant.

  • In its earliest days, to mooch meant to pretend poverty or act the miser. That may come from an even earlier word, mitch, which by then had been in existence for a couple of centuries with a similar meaning. The latter is believed to derive from the Old French muchier or mucier, which meant to hide, or more pejoratively, to skulk or lurk. Both mitch and mooch survived in several senses in local dialects in Britain for centuries, with the latter becoming by far the better known.

  • Mooch could variously mean to play truant (in particular to pick blackberries, for some unknown reason), to “loaf, skulk, sneak, or loiter” as the OED puts it, or to steal or pilfer. In the 1850s, it look on the sense you mention — to sponge on others, to borrow money or cadge things, or to slip away and let others pay for your entertainment. This is clearly where the modern American sense that you quote comes from.

  • But it has had other senses in North America, among them to troll for fish, especially on the West Coast. In the 1920s, it was a slang term among gamblers or on fairgrounds for a sucker or easy mark. In the 1940s-50s, the noun could also refer to a drug addict, so to be on the mooch was to be addicted and a mooch pusher was a drug dealer.

(World Wide Words)

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Jul 22 '17 at 15:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.