Has there been a word or phrase so commonly used in political discourse recently, and so little understood, as “private option”? Every time I pick up the paper — and yes, I still pick up the paper, the old-fashioned kind — somebody is going on about the “private option,” for or against. I wish they’d get it settled before I come down with private option fatigue.

I’m probably one of a few people who remember the “useful tool” of the Rockefeller years. It had to do with school busing for racial purposes. Busing was a huge deal in those days. People wrote songs about it. Unflattering songs, in these parts.

Private option fatigue is still new but what later became known as “combat fatigue'” was born in World War I as “shell shock.” This is from Paul Dickson’s “War Slang”:

“It was immediately thought that these conditions were the result of violent concussions occurring in the vicinity, and the striking but misleading term of ‘shell shock’ came into being. The name was applied to all queer and nervous mental symptoms, and these patients suddenly acquired considerable notoriety … The nervous symptoms included under the misleading and forbidden term ‘shell shock’ are not called war neuroses, or simply nervousness. They are known to be similar to peacetime neuroses, and they are peacetime neuroses with a war-time coloring.” — Frederick W. Parsons, Atlantic Monthly (March 1919).


“When famed British war poet Siegfried Sassoon died in 1967 at age 81, obituaries noted that he had been honored for his bravery in combat but — after throwing his Military Cross into a river — had been sent to a sanatorium for victims of shell shock.”

There was an aggressive Arkansas politician in World War II who was exposed as having been diagnosed with combat fatigue before he’d ever been in combat. He’d have been embarrassed if he were capable of embarrassment, which he wasn’t.