Wednesday, September 13, 2006


It's the Democratic Party and Democratic politicians, not the Democrat Party and Democrat politicians.

Is it a little odd that Republican is the same as a noun and an adjective while Democrat (n.) and Democratic (adj.) are different? Sure -- English is rife with such inconsistencies. Is it a little unfortunate that one party's adjective, when lowercased, has warmer and fuzzier connotations than the other's? Perhaps.

But . . . tough. That's the way it is. There was a time when the -icless adjective might have been read as an attempt at linguistic correction. Today, it is bound to be read as a show of solidarity with Republican propagandists. Use of the big-D word doesn't mean that the big-R people aren't interested in democracy, and use of the big-R word doesn't mean that the big-D people are enemies of our republic.


MuPu said...

In the interest of full disclosure: I am an independent. I am also a democrat (supporting democracy) and a republican (having a strong preference for a republic over, say, a monarchy or a dictatorship).

Now, how would the expression "Democrat Party" (incorrect as it is) be read as "a show of solidarity with Republican propagandists"? Is there something inherent in the icless D-word that is offensive or that advances an agenda? I'm not seeing it.

Bill said...

Nothing inherent, but the fact is that the Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity set has chosen over the past several years to adopt "Democrat Party" and the like as standard taunting phrases.

Unknown said...

It's actually something that goes back, I think, to the Reagan era and is a conscious propaganda ploy used by the Republican Party. Hendrik Hertzberg just wrote about this very phenomenon in the August 7th issue of The New Yorker. The link to it is:

Unknown said...

Or I can try linking it thus wise: Hertzberg Comment

MuPu said...

Thanks, Bill and Len, for the education. I had no idea that this was an established phenomenon (or a conspiracy).

I suppose I've noticed this sort of odd wording before. I just never realized it was "organized" or intentional.

Dropping the "ic" does seem to make the word less attractive sounding, and it throws off the pleasant meter of "DEM-o-CRAT-ic-PAR-ty."

Colorado radio stations are currently airing a political campaign ad in which the speaker repeatedly butchers the opponent's name. Hmmm. Which candidate ends up sounding like the idiot?

Bill said...

I'd feel sheepish about this coincidence, but I did mention the issue in "Lapsing Into a Comma" (2000).

I do feel sheepish about those New Yorkers that pile up without the full attention they deserve.

Andy Bechtel said...

The liberal watchdog group Media Matters attempted to document and quantify this. Here's the link to the findings:

Doug said...

The distressing part, of course, is when you discover your journalism students have already adopted this language -- and are crossing out the "ic" from perfectly good copy. Sort of like the science fiction fungus that slowly entwines the brain.

One useful form, however, is Democrat-controlled (as in controlled by Democrats), n'est pas?

Bill said...

I've wrestled with phrases like "Democrat-controlled," but I think you still want the adjectival form -- Democratic-controlled, just as it'd be French-controlled rather than France-controlled. (Similar questions come up with "female" vs. "woman/women.")