Monday, September 29, 2008

Purdah in the press

Just happened to read Fareed Zakaria's new Newsweek piece, "Palin is Ready? Please." Here's part of the opening:
Will someone please put Sarah Palin out of her agony? Is it too much to ask that she come to realize that she wants, in that wonderful phrase in American politics, "to spend more time with her family"? Having stayed in purdah for weeks, she finally agreed to a third interview. CBS's Katie Couric questioned her in her trademark sympathetic style. It didn't help.
A lot of us are curious about how and when the Mainstream Media use language beyond the most basic and familiar material, including vocabulary. Often that means learned or technical words. But today, it's often more interesting to watch new internationalisms coming in, like purdah. I don't know what percentage of Newsweek readers will know the term offhand, but if they don't, I really hope they turn to a dictionary or ask somebody — if he had used a word like 'isolation' the passage would feel entirely different to me.

Man, for somebody who really doesn't care much about vocabulary, I sure do end up blogging about it a lot.


Janet said...

It also would have had a different feel with "an undisclosed location".

Mr. Verb said...


Ollock said...

I actually had to look up purdah. Now that I know what it means, I kinda like the metaphor. Might be a little heavy from an American cultural perspective, but it's got an interesting connotation what with her being a "woman candidate" but not really a "women's candidate" and all -- and the idea that she's being protected from scary news reporters (especially male ones?).

Ken Brown said...

In British government the word "purdah" has been used for Treasury and Bank officials refusing to discuss proposed budget changes before they are officially announced. It goes back at least to Victorian times.

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks. Merriam-Webster's dates the term back to 1865, if I recall.