Monday, February 04, 2013
Must not call Democrats Democrats
Deliberately misusing the noun form of a group’s name as an adjective is another too-cute way of giving offense while pretending to do nothing of the kind. Jewish food and Jewish doctor mean the same thing as Jew food and Jew doctor, but one version is intended to sting. This is the same schoolyard device many members of the GOP continue to use, with their endless variations on the term “Democrat party” instead of Democratic party, including George W. Bush‘s reference to the “Democrat majority,” and Bob Dole’s deathless “Democrat wars.”
Just why such a construction should be offensive at all is unclear—aside from the fact that it fails to honor the right any group should have to determine what it’s called. Zimmer thinks it may have something to do with the way the terms clang against the ear. “There’s a stress clash,” he says. “If you have two stressed syllables next to each other instead of having a non-stressed one between them it’s just harsher.” The -ish and -ic suffixes in effect serve as shock absorbers.