some terminology developments

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Mon Sep 30 00:09:01 UTC 2013

Note that the Times (London), August 20, 1861, page 7, had an article on "The Civil War in America," in which the following appears:

It is unfortunate for the United States that it has by turns affronted nearly every Government in Europe, and left to itself only the natural sympathies of the peoples for those who appear before them as the friends of liberty.  There is one thing to be said about civil wars -- they do not last long.  It is probable that the "exceptionalism," if one may use the word, on which the Americans rather pride themselves, will not prevail in the case of the struggle between North and South.

Fred Shapiro
YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Ben Zimmer [bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Friday, September 27, 2013 2:53 PM
Subject: Re: some terminology developments

On Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 12:44 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
> The Atlantic has an article from March 2012 on the supposed origin of
> the term "American Exceptionalism".
> Although they correctly point to the collocation circulating in the US
> Communist Party documents in the early 1930s, the attribution to Stalin
> is rather ludicrous. The article has resurfaced due to the ebb and flow
> of conservative politics. Josh Marshall, apparently not realizing that
> the article is 18 months old, takes them to task for ignoring that the
> meaning of the term as used by the Communists was quite different from
> its current incarnation, which, he suggests, took root in post-WWII
> political economy. I suspect he's off by more than a few decades (the
> Reagan-Bush version is built on popular Protestant notions of American
> Exceptionalism--not quite so-named--from the 1800s), but certainly the
> neoconservative philosophy that makes regular use of the term dates back
> to that period.

I wrote up something for Language Log (reprinted on Slate's Lexicon
Valley blog) dismissing the idea that Stalin should be credited with
coining "American exceptionalism."


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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