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Word of the Day: Gerrymander

November 22nd, 2010 · 9 Comments

So, I was vaguely aware that the term “gerrymander” had come from 19th century Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, a pioneer of the fine art of redrawing political districts to entrench his party’s power.  But I’d always assumed the “mander” part was from the same Latin root as “mandate”—as in, an order or injunction of the sort Gerry and his party had employed.

Nope.  Turns out the contorted shapes of the districts Gerry had to draw to keep his party’s supporters in the majority reminded a contemporary cartoonist of some kind of monstrous lizard or salamander—hence gerrymander. Learn something new every day.

Tags: Language and Literature



9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jens Fiederer // Nov 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    That picture was in my American History book back in high school.

  • 2 zevatron // Nov 22, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    I’ve always been a big fan of eponyms and gerrymander is one of my favorites. Gerry also argued against having a standing army (during the debates re: the Constitution) by comparing it to an erect penis: “an assurance of domestic tranquility but an invitation to foreign adventure.” Prescient.

  • 3 Jonas // Nov 23, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I always kind of assumed that it came from meandering, as a river.

  • 4 Greg N. // Nov 23, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    The origin of “gerrymander” is a question on the AP U.S. Government and Politics exam, from time to time.

  • 5 The Problem with Uncle Gerry | Pure Spontaneity // Nov 24, 2010 at 11:21 am

    […]  Someone sent me this and I thought it was […]

  • 6 BJN // Dec 7, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    You wanna really have your mind blown? His last name wasn’t pronounced Jerry, but Gary. The word was actually pronounced Gary-mander originally, and only was mispronounced in its current form much much later.

  • 7 Rose Graham // Dec 24, 2010 at 2:37 am

    That picture was in my American History book back in high school.

  • 8 Ueberfreundezeit» Blog Archive » Episode 8 – “Attack of the Gerrymanders” // Jan 26, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    […] American history is on the minds of Dave and Jeff. Also of note: Dungeons & Dragons, the out-of-date zodiac, the gun store of Mexico, and a dog who wore sunglasses. So settle in with a fresh O’Doul’s and prepare yourself to learn about Admiral George Cockburn, The Pig War, and the true meaning of the word Gerrymander. […]

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