Nattering Nabobs?

Woman dreaming

I had a dream last night, although I didn’t remember having it at all until my husband mentioned it to me at breakfast. “In your sleep, you inarticulately mentioned something about gnats or nattering.  The first thing I thought  of when I heard you muttering was: nattering nabobs of negativism.”

Nattering nabobs of negativism. Wha?

I wasn’t able to remember the actual dream, but once my husband reminded me, I dimly recalled the words.

After breakfast at the beautiful Algonquin Hotel in St. Andrews by the Sea in New Brunswick Canada, I googled the phrase. To be honest, I barely knew how to spell it.

It turns out it was a phrase often used by Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew to refer to the members of the media with whom he had a very acrimonious relationship.

Agnew, who was extremely inarticulate and later a disgraced VP, didn’t have the brains or the wherewithal to come up with such a memorable and jarring expression.

The phrase was actually written forty-five years ago by William Safire, the former Nixon speechwriter turned New York Times op-ed columnist, who died in 2009.

The nattering nabobs were the mainstream American news media. So what the heck was I dreaming about to cause me to mumble it out loud in my sleep?

To be clear, I had never uttered those words before last night. And now I can’t get the words out of my head.

According to, natter as a verb means to talk incessantly; chatter. As a noun, it means a conversation; or chat. The origin of natter occurred between 1820-1830. Its variant was gnatter.

Nabob, as a noun, means any very wealthy, influential, or powerful person.

No need to look up negativism. We all know what that means.

I’ve been wracking my brain to recall what it was I was dreaming about. I do remember something vague about someone making light of my words. I recollect saying over and over: “It’s my story to tell.” A blonde woman was vehemently shaking her head as if to say “no,” and trying to devalue my telling. She was refusing to listen and/or acknowledge what I was saying about my telling, i.e., my life.

I also vaguely remember thinking that she was usurping my words, my writing style, and my story.

Who was the blonde in my dream? Was she the nattering nabob, or was I? And what was I trying to tell?

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