Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Republicans, Democrats, and the Afghan on the Couch

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Republicans, Democrats, and the Afghan on the Couch

Article excerpt

A reader writes, "One of my pet peeves is that the media call the Democrat party 'democratic.' But they don't call the Republican party 'republicanistic.' Nor do I want them to do so!

"This seemed especially noticeable during the recent election. Calling the Democrat party 'democratic' makes it sound as if the other parties are not democratic. What I want is for the media to call the Democrat party 'Democrat' and the Republican party to continue being called 'Republican.' "

Hmm. In fact, I did notice this phenomenon during the past election. But my peeve is not that so many in the media speak of the "Democratic Party" but rather that not enough do. I hate to disappoint a reader, but with a few exceptions "Democratic Party" is the right phrase.

Here's what "The Columbia Guide to Standard American English" (1993) has to say:

"Democrat as an adjective is still sometimes used by some 20th- century Republicans as a campaign tool but was used with particular virulence by the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, a Republican who sought by repeatedly calling it the Democrat party to deny it any possible benefit of the suggestion that it might also be democratic."

That Senator McCarthy used this locution is a good reason to avoid it. But after researching this question, I have to acknowledge that not everyone speaking of "the Democrat party" could be assumed to be a Republican. Several local organizations style themselves the "Democrat Party" of wherever: the Nassau County Democrat Party on New York's Long Island, for example.

What's going on here? I think we're losing our inflections - the special endings we use to distinguish between adjectives and nouns, for instance. There's a tendency to modify a noun with another noun rather than an adjective. Some speak of "the Ukraine election" rather than "the Ukrainian election" or "the election in Ukraine. …

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