Project Wonderful

Monday, October 31, 2016

Election Word Etymology

This will not shock anyone who knows me in person or reads this blog regularly, but when it comes to words I am a big old nerd. I love grammar, I love linguistics and I love finding out where things come from. When my dad asked recently where the term vetting comes from, I couldn't concentrate on anything else until I found out. And once I started, why stop?

I realize we are eight days out from an election and this is complete fluff, but I am hoping if you're as big a nerd as I am you will find it interesting and kind of relaxing. Here we go:

Vetting-"To vet was originally a horse-racing term, referring to the requirement that a horse be checked for health and soundness by a veterinarian before being allowed to race. Thus, it has taken the general meaning 'to check.'"

Campaign-Early 17th century (denoting a tract of open country): from French campagne open country, via Italian from late Latin campania, from campus level ground (see camp). The change in sense arose from an army's practice of ‘taking the field’ (i.e. moving from a fortress or town to open country) at the onset of summer.

Ballot-mid 16th century (originally denoting a small colored ball placed in a container to register a vote): from Italian ballotta, diminutive of balla (see ball1).

Poll-from Middle Low German or Middle Dutch pol "head, top." Sense extended early 14c. to "person, individual." Meaning "collection of votes" is first recorded 1620s, from notion of "counting heads;" meaning "survey of public opinion" is first recorded 1902. Poll tax, literally "head tax," is from 1690s. Literal use in English tends toward the part of the head where the hair grows.

Candidate-c. 1600s, from Latin candidatus "one aspiring to office," originally "white-robed," past participle of candidare "to make white or bright," from candidus past participle of candere "to shine," from PIE root *kand- "to glow, to shine" (see candle). Office-seekers in ancient Rome wore white togas.

Map-early 16th century: from medieval Latin mappa mundi, literally ‘sheet of the world,’ from Latin mappa ‘sheet, napkin’ + mundi ‘of the world’ (genitive of mundus ).

Gerrymander-The word gerrymander (originally written Gerry-mander) was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette on 26 March 1812. The word was created in reaction to a redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under Governor Elbridge Gerry (pronounced /ˈɡɛri/; 1744–1814). In 1812, Governor Gerry signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic-Republican Party. When mapped, one of the contorted districts in the Boston area was said to resemble the shape of a salamander.[1]

Caucus-"private meeting of party leaders," 1763, American English (New England), perhaps from an Algonquian word caucauasu "counselor, elder, adviser" in the dialect of Virginia, or from the Caucus Club of Boston, a 1760s social & political club whose name possibly derived from Modern Greek kaukos "drinking cup." Another old guess is caulker's (meeting) [Pickering, 1816], but OED finds this dismissable.

Canvass-Early 16th century (in the sense toss in a canvas sheet (as a sport or punishment)): from canvas. Later extended senses include criticize, discuss (mid 16th century) and propose for discussion; hence seek support for.

Vote-"formal expression of one's wish or choice with regard to a proposal, candidate, etc.," from Latin votum "a vow, wish, promise to a god, solemn pledge, dedication," noun use of neuter of votus, past participle of vovere "to promise, dedicate" (see vow (n.)). Meaning "totality of voters of a certain class or type" is from 1888.

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