[Ads-l] New Sense of the Noun "Primary"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 13 11:46:58 UTC 2020

This usage might not be so new after all. Back in Dec. 1983, Walter Mondale
said, "This is one of the sweetest primaries there's ever been" -- by which
he meant one of the sweetest primary *seasons* ever.


Mondale reiterated the point in Feb. 1984: "Up until now, we've had the
sweetest primary in history."



On Mon, Feb 10, 2020 at 7:54 AM Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:

> Four years ago I pointed out that there was a new sense of the political
> noun "primary."  No one else seemed to have noticed it.  Now the new sense
> is continuing to gain in currency.
> Traditionally a "primary" meant a single election in a single state or
> single smaller unit helping to qualify candidates for a party nomination.
> The new sense denotes the entire season of nationwide individual state
> qualifying elections.  For example, a headline in the Atlantic reads: "The
> Democrats' Age Divide Is Defining the 2020 Primary."

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

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