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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 98

by Jefferson. Charles Ledyard Norton has devoted a whole book to their etymology and meaning; 27 the number is far too large for a list of them to be attempted here. But a few characteristic specimens may be recalled, for example, the simple agglutinates: omnibus-bill, banner-state, favorite-son, anxious-bench, gag-rule, executive-session, mass-meeting, office-seeker and straight-ticket; the humorous metaphors: pork-barrel, pie-counter, wire-puller, land-slide, carpet-bagger, lame-duck and on the fence; the old words put to new uses: plank, pull, platform, machine, precinct, slate, primary, floater, repeater, bolter, stalwart, filibuster, regular and fences; the new coinages: gerrymander, heeler, buncombe, roorback, mugwump and to bulldoze; the new derivatives: abolitionist, candidacy, boss-rule, per-diem, to lobby and boodler; and the almost innumerable verbs and verb-phrases: to knife, to split a ticket, to go up Salt River, to bolt, to eat crow, to boodle, to divvy, to grab and to run. An English candidate never runs; he stands. To run, according to Thornton, was already used in America in 1789; it was universal by 1820. Platform came in at the same time. Machine was first applied to a political organization by Aaron Burr. The use of mugwump is commonly thought to have originated in the Blaine campaign of 1884, but it really goes back to the 30’s. Anxious-bench (or anxious-seat) at first designated only the place occupied by the penitent at revivals, but was used in its present political sense in Congress so early as 1842. Banner-state appears in Niles’ Register for December 5, 1840. Favorite-son appears in an ode addressed to Washington on his visit to Ports-mouth, N. H., in 1789, but it did not acquire its present ironical sense until it was applied to Martin Van Buren. Thornton has traced bolter to 1812, filibuster to 1863, roorback to 1844, and split-ticket to 1842. Regularity was an issue in Tammany Hall in 1822. 28 There were primaries in New York city in 1827, and hundreds of repeaters voted. In 1829 there were lobby-agents at Albany, and they soon became lobbyists; in 1832 lobbying had already extended to Washington. All of these terms are now as firmly imbedded in the American Vocabulary as election or congressman.