Feature Word: Pork Barrel

Definition:

government projects or appropriations yielding rich patronage benefits.

Description:

You might expect that the original pork barrels were barrels for storing pork — and you’re right. In the early 19th century, that’s exactly what ‘pork barrel’ meant.

But, the term was also used figuratively to mean ‘a supply of money’ or ‘one’s livelihood’ (a farmer, after all, could readily turn pork into cash).

When 20th-century legislators doled out appropriations that benefited their home districts, someone apparently made an association between the profit a farmer got from a barrel of pork and the benefits derived from certain state and federal projects. By 1909, ‘pork barrel’ was being used as a noun naming such government appropriations, and today the term is often used attributively in constructions such as ‘pork barrel politics’ or ‘pork barrel project.’

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Merriam Webster Dictionary - Word of the Day

Marshall

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Definition:

an officer of the highest rank in some military forces

Description:

A logical assumption is that ‘marshal’ is related to ‘martial,’ but the resemblance is purely coincidental. Although most French words are derived from Latin, a few result from the 3rd-century Germanic occupation of France, and the early French ‘mareschal’ is one such word. ‘Mareschal’ came from Old High German ‘marahscalc,’ formed by combining ‘marah’ (horse) and ‘scalc’ (servant). ‘Mareschal’ originally meant ‘horse servant,’ but by the time it was borrowed into Middle English in the 13th century, it described a French high royal official. English applied the word to a similar position, but it eventually came to have other meanings. By contrast, ‘martial’ derives from ‘Mars,’ the Latin name for the god of war, and is completely unrelated.

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Lynch

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Definition:

kill without legal sanction

Description:

Lynch law (lynching) is a term describing the rough-and-ready administration of justice by a mob in cases where the law is inadequate or dilatory (nowadays popularly meaning the execution of a supposed criminal). The term originates from the practice of Charles Lynch, a farmer in Virginia, USA who during the later part of the 18th century supported revolutionary principles in the district where he lived by catching ‘Tories’ and infamous people, whom he then hanged by their thumbs until they cried out ‘Liberty for All’.

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In a Rut

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Definition:

Adhering to a routine that one should try to get out of

Description:

In the horse and buggy days the dirt roads would get worn with ruts from the wagon wheels.
Once you got your wagon wheels into these ruts it was very hard to get them out, you had to follow the same old path.
Thomas Carlyle (1839): Essay on Chartism –  “Parliaments, lumbering along in their deep ruts of commonplace.”

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Cracker

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Definition:

The name given to white people.

Description:

This word is taken from the white slave owner cracking his whip at his slaves.

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