Word of the Day

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

astroturfing

[ as-truh-turf-ing ]

noun

the deceptive tactic of simulating grassroots support for a product, cause, etc., undertaken by people or organizations with an interest in shaping public opinion: In some countries astroturfing is banned, and this includes sponsored blog posts.

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What is the origin of astroturfing?

Astroturfing was originally an Americanism, coined in 1974, meaning “to cover an area with Astroturf (a carpetlike covering made of vinyl and nylon to resemble turf, used for athletic fields, patios, etc.).” Twenty years later (1993) the current sense of Astroturfing “the deceptive tactic of simulating grassroots support for a product or cause, undertaken to influence public opinion” first appeared in Canadian and Australian newspapers.

how is astroturfing used?

An aide said Mr. Markey hoped to combat the tactic of astroturfing in which a professional lobbying effort is made to seem like a grass-roots movement.

Stephanie Strom, "Coal Group Is Linked to Fake Letters on Climate Bill," New York Times, August 4, 2009

This isn’t usually the sort of behavior we think of when we talk about political “astroturfing”—that much-loathed, much-feared practice of faking grass-roots support online—but as more and more political discourse has moved to the Internet, the techniques have multiplied.

Caitlin Dewey, "The three types of political astroturfing you'll see in 2016," Washington Post, September 26, 2016
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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

balladmonger

[ bal-uhd-muhng-ger, -mong- ]

noun

an inferior poet.

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What is the origin of balladmonger?

Shakespeare (1564-1616) is the first recorded author to use balladmonger, a compound noun that has nearly always had a belittling or depreciatory sense. Monger is a common Germanic word derived from Latin mangō, “a slave trader; a merchant who adorns or decorates inferior wares to make them look more attractive.” From the Old English period even until the 20th century, monger has had positive connotations, but beginning in the mid-16th century monger and its derivative compounds frequently have had a negative connotation. For example, ironmonger “a merchant or dealer in iron and hardware,” first recorded in the 12th century, is neutral, but Mark Twain’s coinage superstition-monger is certainly depreciatory. Balladmonger entered English in the late 16th century.

how is balladmonger used?

I had rather be a kitten, and cry mew, Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers

William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part 1, 1598

That sounds like a cheap balladmonger‘s gibe, Richard.

Norah Lofts, The Lute Player, 1951
Monday, April 09, 2018

mea culpa

[ mey-uh kuhl-puh, mee-uh ]

noun

an acknowledgment of one's responsibility for a fault or error.

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What is the origin of mea culpa?

Aging Roman Catholics who were altar boys before the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) can recite from memory the formula from the Confiteor at the beginning of Mass: meā culpā, meā culpā, meā maximā culpā, traditionally translated “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” The Latin phrase was first used in the 13th century as an exclamation or interjection. The noun use of mea culpa, “acknowledgment of responsibility or guilt,” arose in the 19th century.

how is mea culpa used?

Facebook was reluctant, however, to issue any mea culpas or action plans with regard to the problem of filter bubbles or Facebook’s noted propensity to serve as a tool for amplifying outrage.

Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein, "Inside the Two Years That Shook Facebook--and the World," Wired, February 12, 2018

Only later on are they willing to strike a bargain with him: a refuge for a mea culpa.

Paul West, A Fifth of November, 2001

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