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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The doubly-strange origins of the word "caucus."

Just about everyone knows what a caucus is, but few know where the word came from.

Here's the dictionary definition:
1. a meeting of the members of a legislative body who are members of a particular political party, to select candidates or decide policy.
synonyms: meeting, assembly, gathering, congress, conference, convention, rally, convocation More
the members of a caucus.
2. a group of people with shared concerns within a political party or larger organization.
synonyms: members, party, faction, camp, bloc, group, set, band, ring, cabal, coterie, pressure group 
1. to hold or form a caucus

Now, here's the first level of weirdness: The word originated in Boston in 1760 or so, and was spelled “corcas” or “corkus.” It was the Boston accent that made it sound like "caucus," and that led to the modern spelling.

The second level of weirdness is that the word may have been entirely made up in a satirical article in a colonial Boston newspaper --- as the imaginary town of "West Corcus" in which a meeting took place.

Doubly (or perhaps even trebly) strange: "Caucus" is the mispronunciation of the site of an imaginary meeting in an imaginary place!