[Ads-l] news to whippersnappers

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Feb 27 11:53:01 EST 2021

Besides the observation that "The truncated “Democrat...rhymes with rat, bureaucrat, kleptocrat, plutocrat,” another point worth raising is that in “Democrat party” the adversaries aren't really using “Democrat” as an adjective, as this piece and others on the shift generally put it. They're using the noun Democrat as a modifier in a compound rather than the corresponding adjective in a standard adjective-noun phrase. This is part of the slurring effect, for the reasons Bolinger, Wierzbicka, and others have stressed (and that we’ve discussed here in the past, and alluded to more recently in the thread on “weirdo"): the power of nouns to pigeonhole or brand.*  A more blatant instance of the same effect is the replacement of “Jewish” as an attributive adjective with the noun “Jew”, which—while not a slur in itself—becomes one when used a modifier:  a Jew lawyer, a Jew congressman. 


*summary of above point on the power of nouns:

[A] bias hidden in a noun is more ungrateful, or solidify it a step further and call her an ungrateful person. But if we call her an ingrate we put the brand on her: the noun implies that the world puts people like this in a class by themselves.                                                                         (Bolinger 1980: 79)

•Especially potent when the objectification or branding is especially potent when individuals are classified by nationality, race, orientation, consequential acts, or disabilities.
•The branding power extends from essentialist epithets (kike, wop, dago, fag) to deverbal behavioral traits (worrywart, quitter, crybaby)

I’m not an alcoholic—I simply drink. (Wierzbicka)
I’m not a deserter—I deserted. (Bolinger). 

And more recently seen in the avoidance of “illegals” or “aliens”, “slaves”, “diabetics”, “autistics”, “prostitutes”, etc. as category labels in favor of periphrastic counterparts. And even “billionaires”, a “catchphrase” that (billionaire) Howard Schultz has proposed we replace with the more benign “people of means” or “people of wealth”. 

> On Feb 27, 2021, at 11:18 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> https://www.yahoo.com/news/whats-adjective-democrat-party-label-145505007.html
> I looked into this not long ago via the newspaper databases and found that
> "Democrat party" alternated with "Democratic party" even for Democrats in
> the 19th century. Nobody cared.
> The intentionally dismissive Republican usage seems to have started in the
> '30s or '40s, if not before. (Think League of Nations.) Joe McCarthy liked
> to say "the Democrat party."
> But here's a pioneering example from 1879, courtesy of Google Books:
> "Why, sir, the Democrat party has smelt worse than Lazarus did after he had
> been dead four days, for the last twelve years."
> See, democracy good, Democrats bad. Pretty simple, when you think about it.
> JL
> -- 
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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