minimis, minimus = 'minimum,' 'minimal'

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 29 00:22:55 UTC 2011

"De minimus" is a standard expression in European law and in
international law--not so much in the US (see exception below). Much of
the time it's a noun, although it originally was used as a
modifier--mostly "de minimus amount". Graham certainly has some
familiarity with international law and admiralty law, so he certainly
has exposure to the expression (he was a top Navy JAG lawyer).
Bloomberg's is the only usage that looks unusual to me. I find it highly
unlikely that there is any correlation with being Republican. Besides,
Bloomberg is a RINO if there ever was one. He switched parties because
he had a better chance to get through the primaries as a Republican.
Then, in his last term, he delisted himself from Republican rolls and
re-registered as an independent. He was never much of a Democrat, but
possibly even less of a Republican. You are also assuming Rogers's party
affiliation from his position--in fact, a number of Duke Energy
executives are Democrats, although the majority are Republicans.

You also might have misheard Graham. Here's the transcript:
> Winning the war on terror to me is as follows.  Where there is will to
> fight and defeat extremism, it begins to obtain capacity, that when we
> withdraw, that the military forces left behind will be de minimus and
> that the people in the country in question will have the capacity
> militarily to defeat extremism:  When a politician embraces a moderate
> thought, they don't get killed; they win the election.

But here's another Republican using "de minimus" (not in a way that I've
heard before)
> Lindsey Graham voted "aye" on the Judiciary Committee and on the floor
> to replace David Souter with the "Wise Latina". Now, after a milder,
> but no less effective questioning exposing Elena Kagan's lack of
> qualifications for the U.S. Supreme Court, John McCain's protege will
> again vote "aye", so de minimus does Graham view the consequences of
> the election of conservative Republican senators.

I found a tertiary source that identifies the following quote:

> If they raised taxes on billionaires and millionaires, it adds a de
> minimus amount of money to the Treasury to pay off the debt

The source claims the line came from NYT, but I have not been able to
find it in the NYT. No attribution--perhaps that's the Graham line you

"De minimus" does show up in US tax law (specifically, in reference to
benefits--I found several comments that involved "de minimus" WRT
benefits topics). Hence:
> I've heard through the grapevine (which is not reliable) that it costs
> the IRS $100 to process a 5330 - therefore, many have suggested that
> the IRS would not go crazy trying to find these types of returns. I
> think this lost interest on participant contributions revolution (in
> the past 5 or 10 years, I mean) has definitely created the need for a
> de minimis tax threshhold, but no such luck yet.

It's just the minimum legally required amount, so I don't see any problems.


On 9/28/2011 7:28 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>   Last week I heard Sen. Lindsey Graham of SC say that we had to reduce
> something to the "minimus." Just now I heard NYC Mayor Bloomberg tell CNN
> that "The fact is that the number of people crossing the border illegally is
> at the minimus number."
> Think it's just me? Think it's just plain "minimus"? CNN, Apr. 30
> :
> "JIM ROGERS, CEO, DUKE ENERGY: First of all, and most importantly, the
> national grid of the United States relies on just a de minimus amount of
> oil. So the movement in the oil price really doesn't affect the price of
> electricity very much."
> All three speakers are Republicans. Presumably, a confudiation of the legal
> "de minimis" is at the root of it all.
> JL

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list