Monday, December 14, 2009

Did You Know...

As our elected reprehensitives (thank you Bilbo) debate the grand health care reform bill, we keep hearing about the magic number of 60 to keep one side from filibustering to keep the bill from coming to a vote.

The term filibuster is from the Danish word vrijbuiter and means free (vrij) booty (buit). Free booty is not a party call for college boys to invade the girls dormitories and sorority houses; it's a pirating term used when buccaneers raided the West Indies and Spanish-American coast during the 1600's. The word filtered through the French as filibuster and through Spanish as filibustero. In English, filibuster came to mean somebody waging war (an irregular battle) for personal gain. Today we know it as a way for a senator to ramble about anything at all (an irregular tactic) to delay debate and keep a bill from coming to a vote.

By the way, the words senator and senile share the same Latin root senex, which means "an old man." In the Roman Empire, they had a bit more respect for the elder statesman of the Senate than our current Senators deserve.

So as 2010 gets underway and a third of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, choose your candidate carefully. The Latin word candidatus originally meant "dressed in white." Politicians seeking office made sure that their togas were immaculate to make the best possible impression. The word now means one seeking office. You may recognize the same root found in candle and incandescent.

...And now you know.

John <><


Bilbo said...

You have earned the honorary BA in Linguistics from the University of Bilbo. Good post!

Mike said...

I stopped reading at free booty. What was the rest of the post about?

John said...

Yeah, Mike, if our Senators found out that filibuster meant free booty, they'd never get anything done!