The Senate’s first filibusterer?

“The roots of ‘filibuster’ go back to a Dutch word for a pirate or privateer, ‘vrijbuiter.’ …. Dutch colonists of the 16th century used the term for pirates they encountered in the West Indies. In English it became ‘freebooter,’ in French ‘flibustier’ and in Spanish ‘filibustero.’

“In the mid-19th century, ‘filibustero’ became a key term in Latin America as soldiers of fortune, often hailing from the U.S., went on unauthorized expeditions to overturn Spanish colonial rule and take control of territories for themselves. These adventurers earned the ‘filibustero’ label, Anglicized as ‘filibuster’ in the American press….

“[In 1853] the word came up as the House of Representatives debated whether to annex Cuba. A North Carolina Democrat, Rep. Abraham Venable, broke with his party to denounce the idea as U.S. piracy, or as he put it , ‘now in our tongue filibuster, but still a freebooter.’ His fellow Democrat, Rep. Albert G. Brown of Mississippi, turned the label around on him — and began its transition to a new political meaning about hijacking the debate itself.  ‘When I saw my friend standing on the other side of the House filibustering, as I thought, against the United States, surrounded, as he was, by admiring Whigs, I did not know what to think.’ ”

— From ” ‘Filibuster’: A Pirating Maneuver That Sailed Into the Senate” by Ben Zimmer in the Wall Street Journal (Sept. 25, 2020) 

‘Intertidal zone of the linguistic South” — that’s us

“The Tar Heel State is the intertidal zone of the linguistic South: Overwhelming forces wash in and out, but weird, fascinating little tide pools remain….”

— From “Why North Carolina Is the Most Linguistically Diverse U.S. State… But it might not be that way for much longer” b at Atlas Obscura (Dec. 11)

Cited at length: N.C. State’s Walt Wolfram, “one of the great American linguists of the past 50 years.”


Where Yankees said ‘very,’ we said ‘mighty’

“The words very and must didn’t exist in the rural North Carolina dialect I spoke. All my relatives and neighbors used mighty where Yankees would use very.

“I recall the first time I heard must coming from the mouth of a Southerner. Our high school was having career day and had invited a pianist from Fayetteville who had tried his luck in New York. He said, ‘I must go now; I have another session….’  I was so struck by the incident, that I remember it to this day, a half century later. Now very and must are commonplace….”

— From Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog (Sept. 18, 2013) 

Offline, Dr. Goodword is Robert E. Beard, native of Fayetteville, graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and professor emeritus of languages at Bucknell University.