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Words, Sept. 11

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Joe Lieberman probably calls it the Democrat Party:

Some Republicans refer to the Democratic Party as the Democrat Party, perhaps to suggest that the opposition is not democratic, perhaps just to be disagreeable. Safire's Political Dictionary says that Leonard Hall, a former Republican national chairman, popularized this term, beginning in 1955. (Although Thomas E. Dewey, an unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate, had used it earlier.) Newspaper columnists and television commentators adopted the style, well aware that Republicans own most newspapers and television stations. Safire's says: “Some Democrats suggested retaliating by shortening Republican to Publican, but the National Democratic Committee overruled them, explaining that Republican ‘is the name by which our opponents' product is known and mistrusted.'”

“After the meeting, she said many staff members were upset about the situation, but most were forgiving. ‘For the most part, we didn't want to get involved in this raucous. It wasn't something we felt would serve the staff any purpose.' ”

This raucous what? Raucous is an adjective that means “strident” and “rowdy.” It's been around since the middle of the 18th century.

I imagine that what the speaker said, or intended to say, was that the staff “didn't want to get involved in this ruckus.” The noun ruckus — “a noisy commotion,” “a heated controversy” — is an Americanism that dates back only to about 1890. It's probably a combination of ruction and rumpus, Random House says.

“The debate about why the number of African American players has plummeted has been explored aplenty. The predominant argument is that baseball has an ‘image problem' in black America. It has no cultural cache and therefore young athletic black men gravitate toward basketball and football.”

Without a cache, they'd have no place to keep the balls and bats. But I suspect the writer meant that baseball has no cultural cachet (“superior status; prestige”). The word is misspelled fairly often these days, possibly because the t is silent.

 

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