[Ads-l] caucus, to clarify

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Fri Jun 26 11:56:49 UTC 2015

To clarify, I do not claim--nor did William Bentley, to my knowledge--that the meetings once convened by Elisha Cooke Jr. continued uninterrupted into the 1760s. Rather, I mean that the latter, later, meetings may have borrowed a name from the earlier convener--somewhat as the modern Olympic Games borrowed an ancient name, without any pretense of continuous operation. But that outsiders mostly were unaware of the (putatively) revived name.

So far, I've seen no good evidence for the proposed Algonquin etymology, nor for caulkers, nor for kaukos (cup). Caucus as a little-known name for the north wind may or may not have been in the mind of John Eliot (Biographical Dictionary, 1809 p. 472-3) who wrote of the caucus: "It was a matter of policy likewise to assemble in that [north] part of town. It had the effect to awake the _north wind_, and stir the _waters_ of the _troubled sea_." ("Troubled sea" may be an allusion to the wicked in Isaiah 57:20, AV.) If so, it appears to have been a speculative afterthought association and not based on the earlier meetings (at Dawes' or Cooke's), which were not located in the north end. The large (1490 sq. ft.) house of Thomas Dawes, where meetings took place upstairs, was located on Purchase Street, next door, by the way, to John Adams.

"Cooke's" may not be behind the largely-misunderstood "caucus," but it might be the best guess now.

Stephen Goranson


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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