Sunday, February 17, 2008

The evolution of 'Democrat' (adj.)?

Language-oriented bloggers, including me, have made a lot of the use of cropping in political speech: Bush and others have picked up the old Joe McCarthy cropping of Democratic to Democrat. I've seen a few signs here and there lately of this form where it pretty clearly wasn't intended to be pejorative, but I don't recall it being noted anywhere yet.

I half-consciously noted such a use on, I think, NPR a while back by an elected Democratic politician, but didn't even note who it was and have since caught a couple other uses where it was clearly neutral, either from the context or from knowing the politics of the speaker. Today, the decidedly left-leaning Raw Story uses it in a headline (using a screen capture since the actual link doesn't use that form):

There, on the right side of the second line, you can see. At the same time, today's Wisconsin State Journal — a Republican paper to be sure, but hardly the most knuckle-dragging operation around — has a headline:
Democrat choice is tough for some
Is this a cropping that's losing it's sting?


Unknown said...

I grew up in a strongly Republican household, and I never knew that the adjective "Democrat" was supposed to be an insult until I read about it on Language Log a while back.

In addition, in my mind "democratic" means "of democracy," not "of Democrats." So I'm sure there are others out there who use "Democrat" as an adjective and don't intend it as a barb. Of course, if a group of people prefers a certain term, it's more polite to respect their preferences.

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks. Yeah, cropping is so natural here that it's easy to see this development. With folks like Raw Story using it, I wonder if the tide is turning. Time will tell!

The Ridger, FCD said...

There is a difference, though, between "Democrat politician" and "Democrat choice". The latter is a choice between Democrats, just as "Democrat mediator" in this context means "mediator between Democrats", not a mediator who is a Democrat.

(Which is not to say, of course, that all who use the crop mean it as an insult.)

Mr. Verb said...

You know, I tried to get that difference and either still has the negative feel to it. That is, any preposed version of 'Democrat' sounds negative to me.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Yeah, it does to me, too. But I think there may be contexts in which it seems more correct to people looking for a noun.