December 19, 2012

Democrat, Democratic, Democratical.

Today, I encountered a word I'd never noticed before: "democratical." I was writing about the "common sense" meme and arrived at the Thomas Paine pamphlet "Common Sense" and John Adams's criticism of it as "so democratical, without any restraint or even an attempt at any equilibrium or counter poise, that it must produce confusion and every evil work."

The OED defines "democratical" to mean the same thing as "democratic," and it gives some usage examples going back to 1589 and continuing only to 1850:

1589   ‘M. Marprelate’ Hay any Worke for Cooper 26   It is Monarchicall, in regarde of our head Christ, Aristocraticall in the Eldership, and Democraticall in the people.
1608   D. Tuvil Ess. Polit. & Morall f. 4v,   Ostracismes practiced in those Democraticall and Popular states of elder times.
1686   in Coll. Scarce & Valuable Tracts (1748) I. 111   The Democratical Man, that is never quiet under any Government.
1791   J. Boswell Life Johnson anno 1775 I. 460,   I abhor his Whiggish democratical notions and propensities.
1850   G. Grote Hist. Greece VIII. ii. lxiv. 231   The levy was in fact as democratical and as equalising as..on that memorable occasion.
There are also a 3 examples of "democratical" as a noun, defined to mean the same thing as "democrat." 2 of these are by Thomas Hobbes:
1651   T. Hobbes Leviathan ii. xxii. 122   Aristocraticalls and Democraticalls of old time in Greece.
1679   T. Hobbes Behemoth i, in Wks. VI. 199   The thing which those democraticals chiefly then aimed at, was to force the King to call a parliament.
What, you may ask, is the "-al" ending doing after the "-ic" ending? When do suffixes double up like that? This seems related to the present-day controversy about using the word "Democrat" as an adjective, when GOP types refer to the "Democrat Party," instead of the "Democratic Party." There's an insult perceived in leaving off the "-ic" ending, but, oddly, in the case of "democratical," there's insult in adding more letters — "-ic" plus "-al."

Does "-al" have any meaning? "Forming adjectives with the sense ‘of or relating to that which is denoted by the first element'" is the OED definition, which seems to say, it's just a way to turn something into an adjective. But that doesn't explain "-ical." The "-ic" already made the adjective. What's up with "-ical"? What are the other "-ical" words? Comical, radical... logical...

I know what you're thinking: "The Logic Song" by Supertramp!
When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they'd be singing so happily, joyfully, playfully, watching me
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical...
I said now, watch what you say, now we're calling you a radical, a liberal, fanatical, criminal
Won't you sign up your name, we'd like to feel you're acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable...
But I'm thinking so logical ...
Am I thinking too logical? So... musical interlude over. What does "-ic" mean? It's just another ending used to make an adjective and means "in the manner of" or "pertaining to" or some such generic way to say what differentiates an adjective from a noun. So what's with the suffix pile-up in the "-ical" words? Wonderfully, magically, the OED has an entry for "-ical":
Sometimes forming an adjective from a noun in -ic, as music, musical, but more frequently a secondary adjective, as comic, comical, historic, historical. Its origin appears to have been the formation in late Latin of adjectives in -ālis on nouns in -ic-us, or in -icē, e.g. grammatic-us grammarian, grammaticē grammar, grammatic~āl-is grammatical, clēricus clergyman, clerk, clēricāl-is clerical. So in medieval Latin, chīrurgicāl-is, dominic-āl-is, medicāl-is, mūsicāl-is, physicāl-is. In French, adjectives of this type are few, and mostly taken directly from Latin formations, as chirurgical, clérical, grammatical, médical, etc. But in English they are exceedingly numerous, existing not only in all cases in which the term in -ic is a noun, but also as the direct representatives of Latin adjectives in -icus, French -ique. Thus we find before 1500 canonical, chirurgical, domestical, musical, philosophical, physical. Many adjectives have a form both in -ic and -ical, and in such cases that in -ical is usually the earlier and that more used. Often also the form in -ic is restricted to the sense ‘of’ or ‘of the nature of’ the subject in question, while that in -ical has wider or more transferred senses, including that of ‘practically connected’ or ‘dealing with’ the subject. Cf. ‘economic science’, ‘an economical wife’, ‘prophetic words’, ‘prophetical studies’, ‘a comic song’, ‘a comical incident’, ‘the tragic muse’, ‘his tragical fate’. A historic book is one mentioned or famous in history, a historical treatise contains or deals with history. But in many cases this distinction is, from the nature of the subject, difficult to maintain, or entirely inappreciable.

Adjectives of locality, nationality, and language, as Baltic, Arabic, Teutonic, and those of chemical and other technical nomenclature, as oxalic, ferric, pelagic, dactylic, hypnotic, megalithic, have usually no secondary form in -al.
That's long and complicated, though interesting as hell, but I boldfaced the bit that's most useful to understand what John Adams and Thomas Hobbes were getting at. It might be helpful to consider what it would mean to say: This political movement is not democratic. It's democratical. My sense is that democratic would refer to the principle that each person to be governed ought to vote. Democratical nudges us to worry about the chaos and disorder of attempting to let everyone decide everything.

This brings us back to why Democrats prefer the adjective "Democratic" (rather than to have the noun "Democrat" used in the combination "Democratic Party"). Presumably, they want to appear to be imbued with democratic values, rather than simply to be a party composed of Democrats.

A "Democrat" is, in the U.S. political sense, "A member of the Democratic party," as defined in the OED, beginning with this choice 1798 quote from none other than George Washington: "You could as soon scrub the blackamore white as change the principle of a profest Democrat."

There are times when all the world's asleep/The questions run too deep for such a simple man...

30 comments:

chickelit said...

What about the suffix "-ous"?

Jimmy said...

You can reaarange the letters in democratical to spell "REDCOAT CLAIM"!

gutless said...

Perhaps Democratist?

garage mahal said...

Crab Lineup is an anagram for Republican.

Bob Ellison said...

Electric and electrical.

creeley23 said...

This seems related to the present-day controversy about using the word "Democrat" as an adjective, when GOP types refer to the "Democrat Party," instead of the "Democratic Party." There's an insult perceived in leaving off the "-ic" ending...

I've encountered liberals who go nuts over anyone saying, "Democrat Party." I've never quite gotten this. Years later I noticed that Rush Limbaugh is always careful to say, "Democrat Party," and I wondered if that's the salt in the wound. If that's the case, there is no chance Limbaugh will ever say anything else.

To my mind "Democrat Party" makes more sense, because the party isn't particularly dedicated to being democratic, so much as it composed of members who call themselves Democrats based on a long historical story.

chickelit said...

In chemistry, the -ic suffix denotes a greater degree of -ous.

Alex said...

I just say Demorat.

chickelit said...

garage mahal anagrams:

Algae Rag Ham

Gaga Alarm eh

Gala Gamer ha

Alarm Age Hag

garage mahal said...

Anagrams for chickelit

Cliche Kit
Hectic Ilk
Chick Lite
Ethic Lick
Tickle Chi
Thick Lice

Chip S. said...

We can rule out "Democratronic," since they have no logic circuits.

Alex said...

Anagram for garage:

Ear Gag

Chip S. said...

"Arm a nag" is an anagram for "anagram".

chickelit said...

Too-fuckin'-shay, Chip!

Chip S. said...

garage demonstrates the pressing need for pun control.

chickelit said...

Punic wars?

HT said...

"This brings us back to why Democrats prefer the adjective "Democratic" (rather than to have the noun "Democrat" used in the combination "Democratic Party"). Presumably, they want to appear to be imbued with democratic values, rather than simply to be a party composed of Democrats."

Great decoy!

It is the Republicans who have wished to change the name of the Democratic Party. They are the ones who insist on calling it the "Democrat Party." It is not a new desire on the part of today's Democrats to wish to appear more democratic than they actually are. You will have to do some real research to find out what you say you are looking for.

Because the boring reason today's Democrats call themselves members of the Democratic Party is that this is the actual name of the party.

Methadras said...

There is nothing democratic about a democrat. That's democratical.

traditionalguy said...

Democratical slur was like saying someone was from the wrong side of the tracks.

The democratical Roundheads beat the aristocratic Cavaliers in England once, but the lusty English wanted their King back as soon as Cromwell died.

In the New World experience we just never needed lusty aristocrats. We had our attorneys instead.

And once Tommy Jefferson and Jimmy Madison finished our revolution and Constitution the days of Anglican/English Aristocracy was forever gone.

And then Abe Lincoln and his GOP guys made it permanent that no man owns another man's labor or entailed serfdom

Piers Morgan needs to be gone forever, and take King Barack I with him when he goes.

chickelit said...

trad guy wrote: Piers Morgan needs to be gone forever, and take King Barack I with him when he goes.

Fitting that his initials are PM.

Press Minister

edutcher said...

225 years ago a democrat meant a panderer to the masses.

Still does.

That's why Democrats don't like to hear Democrat Party.

Of course, you have Republicans in the republican Party, Communists in the Communist Party, Libertarians in the Libertarian Party, and even Greens in the Green Party, but there are no Democratics in the Democratic Party.

Dr Weevil said...

Democrats (Democratics?) don't seem to have figured out that taking extreme offense at a trivial variation on their chosen name just makes non-Democrats want to tease them by using it over and over again.

A friend of mine went to a huge public high school in the Midwest some years ago. One of her classmates was named Jean. On the first day of the school year, she tried to tell half a dozen fellow freshmen not to say "Hi, Jean!" (apparently because it sounds like 'hygiene' as in feminine hygiene), but to address her with "Hello, Jean". Of course, word spread quickly and within 24 hours the 2000 other students were all saying "Hi, Jean!" and "HiJean!" and "HiJean HiJean HiJean!" to her all day long.

reformed trucker said...

"that it must produce confusion and every evil work."

Sounds like the Democrats to me.

jimbino said...

Funny, but I think most folks who say "archetypal" also say "prototypical."

n.n said...
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n.n said...
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n.n said...

It's analogous to the selective use of abortion, Roe vs Wade, and reproductive rights. It's semantic shifts in order to accommodate individual perceptions and sensitivities. It is typically used in euphemisms to obfuscate the issue.

For example, democracy is the subordination of the minority to the majority's will. However, practically, it is processed by a minority interest through exploitation of democratic (i.e. numerical) leverage. The same thing happened with progress, and progressive, which are ambiguous until qualified.

As with religion, and other faiths, ideology should be judged by the principles it engenders.

As with emotional appeals, semantic games are routinely exploited to extort concessions.

Rich Rostrom said...

I note some other occurrences of terminal "cal" that have dropped out of use:

"fantastical" (more common than "fantastic" till the mid-1700s)

"academical" (more common than "academic" till about 1880)

"ironical" (displaced since 1880 by "ironic", which was previously unknown)

rastajenk said...

If there's a subtle insult in adding -al to the term...why stop there? As "gutless" suggested above, but didn't take it far enough, I'm going to go with: Democraticalist; you know, practitioners of Democraticalism. The worst kind of Democrats.

EMD said...

Anagram for Althouse

Louse Hat!