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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2008 / 8 Adar I 5768

A Primer of Political Etymology

By Richard Lederer

Bill O'Reilly
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | We are in the grip of a feverish, frenetic, fervent, frantic and frenzied presidential campaign that demonstrates why in England people stand for election, but in the United States they run. It's also a time that demonstrates although the classical societies of ancient Greece and Rome have vanished, Greek and Roman thought are very much alive in the parlance of politics.

Taking first things first, we'll start with the word primary, which descends from the Latin primus, "first." Primary, as a shortening of "primary election, is first recorded in 1861. In an election we "pick out" a candidate who we wish to vote for. In Latin e means "out" and lectus "pick or choose."

As the joke goes, the etymology of the word politics derives from poly, "many," and tics, which are blood-sucking parasites. In truth politics issues from the Greek word polities, "city, citizen." Politics may make strange bedfellows, but, as we shall see, politics makes for even stranger, and sometimes colorful, vocabulary.

Campaign is very much a fighting word. The Latin campus, "field," is a clue that the first campaigns were conducted on battlefields. A military campaign is a series of operations mounted to achieve a particular wartime objective. A political campaign is an all-out effort to secure the election of a candidate to office.

When he went to the Forum in Roman times, a candidate for office wore a bleached white toga to symbolize his humility, purity of motive ands candor. The original Latin root, candidatus, meant "one who wears white," from the belief that white was the color of purity and probity. There was wishful thinking even in ancient Roman politics, even though a white-clad Roman candidatus was accompanied by sectatores, followers who helped him get votes by bargaining and bribery. The Latin parent verb candere, "to shine, to glow" can be recognized in the English words candid, candor, candle, and incandescent.

We know that candidates are ambitious; it's also worth knowing that ambition developed from the Latin ambitionem, "a going about," from the going about of candidates for office in ancient Rome.

President descends from the Latin praesidio, "preside, sit in front of or protect." Presidents sit in the seat of government. When we speak of "the ship of state," we are being more accurate etymologically than we know. The Greek word kybernao meant "to direct a ship." The Romans borrowed the word as guberno, and ultimately it crossed the English Channel as governor, originally a steersman. That's why the noun is governor and the adjective gubernatorial.

The original Greek meaning of the word idiot was not nearly as harsh as our modern sense. Long before the psychologists got hold of the word, the Greeks used idiotes, from the root idios, "private," as in idiom and idiosyncrasy, to designate those who did not hold public office. Because such people possessed no special status or skill, the word idiot gradually fell into disrepute.

The vote that we'll soon be casting is really a "vow" or "wish." And this is the precise meaning of the Latin votum. People in our society who fail to exercise their democratic privilege of voting on election day are sometimes called idiots.

A metaphor (the word originally meant "to carry across" in Greek) is a figure of speech that merges two seemingly different objects or ideas. We usually think of metaphors as figurative devices that only poets create, but, in fact, all of us make metaphors during almost every moment of our waking lives. As T. E. Hulme observed, "Prose is a museum, where all the old weapons of poetry are kept."

Take the political expression "to throw one's hat in the ring." The phrase probably derives from the custom of tossing one's hat into the boxing ring to signal the acceptance of a pugilist's challenge. Once the hat is thrown, the candidates start engaging in political infighting as they slug it out with their opponents.

Or take the expression "to carry the torch for someone." During the 19th century, a dedicated follower showed support for a political candidate by carrying a torch in an evening campaign parade. A fellow who carried a torch in such a rally didn't care who knew that he was wholeheartedly behind his candidate. Later the term was applied to someone publicly (and obsessively) in love.

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Richard Lederer Archives

JWR contributor Richard Lederer is a language maven. More than a million of his books, which have been Book-of-the-Month Club and Literary Guild alternate selections, are in print. His latest work is Richard Lederer's Anguished English 2007 Calendar: Bloopers And Blunders Comment by clicking here.


© 2008, Richard Lederer

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