An interview by New York Times culture reporter Sopan Deb with the cast of “Arrested Development” – whose fifth season debuts May 29 on Netflix – took a disturbing turn when one cast member, Jessica Walter, spoke through tears about having been bullied verbally by her co-star, Jeffrey Tambor. A third member of the cast, Jason Bateman (who plays a son of Walter and Tambor), appeared to excuse Tambor’s behavior.
In defending Tambor, Bateman used the word belittle three times, each time claiming not to be belittling the charges. Here’s the second occurrence:
BATEMAN But this is a family and families, you know, have love, laughter, arguments — again, not to belittle it, but a lot of stuff happens in 15 years. I know nothing about “Transparent” but I do know a lot about “Arrested Development.” And I can say that no matter what anybody in this room has ever done — and we’ve all done a lot, with each other, for each other, against each other — I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I have zero complaints.
And the third:
BATEMAN Again, not to belittle it or excuse it or anything, but in the entertainment industry it is incredibly common to have people who are, in quotes, “difficult.”
An unexceptionable word, right? Not quite. It’s accepted today, but belittle was once, well, belittled ... despite a distinguished pedigree. The first person to use it in print appears to have been none other than Thomas Jefferson. Here’s how the Merriam-Webster blog tells the story: