Author Archives: Louise

Political jargon 5: “Hear, hear!”

The House of Commons at Westminster; Plate 21 of Microcosm of London (1808) / Wikimedia Commons

The House of Commons at Westminster; Plate 21 of Microcosm of London (1808) / Wikimedia Commons

As the Grammarly blog explains: “The phrase hear, hear seems to have come into existence as an abbreviation of the phrase hear him, hear him, which was well-established in Parliament in the late seventeenth century. The UK Parliament prides itself on its lively debates, and saying “hear him, hear him” was a way to draw attention to what a person was saying. …  Sometime during the eighteenth century hear him, hear him acquired its short form, hear, hear, and that form is still used today.”

A contributor to StackExchange noted that the phrase must be older than this entry in Pearson’s Political Dictionary from 1792:

hearhear

What was originally a parliamentary call for attention has turned into a phrase the OED describes as being “used to express one’s wholehearted agreement with something said, especially in a speech.” As Yahoo! News recently reported about Samantha Bee: “She was also recently her hilarious self on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, talking about how she cannot wait for the election to end (hear, hear!)”

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TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Friday, Oct 21)

Portrait of Cod; Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Cod; Wikimedia Commons

In grammatical and usage news this past month: a political email scandal involving risotto and apostrophes; some fishy regional accents, literally; how we’ll all be talking in 50 years’ time; Trump gets it wrong yet again; a British supermarket with a name that’s already been taken (by Iceland, for itself); a dictionary goes online; and those familiar experiences and concepts that desperately need a word or name to describe them  … Continue reading

Political jargon 3: “Filibuster”

Wendy Davis during her famous filibuster

Wendy Davis during her famous filibuster

Continuing our exploration of American political jargon, here’s a look at the word filibuster, which to British ears sounds more like a horse-trainer than an obstructive political process. Here’s an explanation from an earlier Glossophilia post. Continue reading

Bigly

Wikimedia Commons / Photo by Gage Skidmore

Wikimedia Commons / Photo by Gage Skidmore

“…And they’re taking it over bigly.” … “Obamacare kicks in in 2016, really bigly.” … “I’m talking about illegal immigrants … At least Fox is being honest because they’re now talking about it bigly.” … “Mexico is ripping off the United States bigly and we have to do something about it.” Donald Trump likes that word bigly, but is it legit?

According to Merriam Webster, it’s an adverb.

bigly

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Political jargon 2: “Beltway”

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

“Thursday brought another WikiLeaks dump of nearly 2,000 emails hacked from the Hillary Clinton campaign, allegedly by Russians. As usual, they were inside-the-beltway gossip rather than game-changing.” So The Guardian reported earlier this week. What does “beltway gossip” mean? Continue reading

Political jargon 1: “Bellwether”

The bellwether sheep, who leads the flock. Photo from Goodreads.

The bellwether sheep, who leads the flock. Photo from Goodreads.

“Ohio, Long a Bellwether, Is Fading on the Electoral Map” So read a headline in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago. What exactly does bellwether mean, and where does the word come from? Continue reading

Proper adjectives: to Capitalize or not to capitalize?

Miniature of the "Alexander Romance", a 14th-century book, late Byzantine period / Wikimedia Commons

Miniature of the “Alexander Romance”, a 14th-century book, late Byzantine period / Wikimedia Commons

We use them all the time: adjectives that originally came from real or proper names. In its simplest form — a French kiss, a Shakespearean turn-of-phrase, a Freudian slip — it seems only fair that a proper name should retain its proper capitalized status when it steps out as an adjective. However, a word can lose its initial luster when an adjective starts to assert its own “improper” identity and emancipate itself from its lofty namesake. “In August, a teenager from Iowa cooked dozens of similarly Lilliputian pancakes for her chickens,” reported New York magazine yesterday. Here, the miniaturizing adjective named after Jonathan Swift’s fictional island was allowed to keep its proper L. “Toronto tries to simplify byzantine PATH map,” the Toronto Star said in a headline on Monday, with the Canadian paper’s editors denying byzantine its capital B despite the adjective taking its name from a real but ancient empire. Why is there a difference in treatment between the two? Continue reading