Everyday Life Political


Skullduggery (spelled with either a “k” or “c” and/or two “l”s) comes from the Scottish word for adultry:  “sculdudrie”.  The word is used in modern parlance as a term for underhanded dealings or trickery, often political in nature.  Ex. The skullduggery that was Watergate.

The word Skullduggery has been used to title various things from a 1970s Burt Reynolds film to the University of Adelaide orientation week, established in 1896.  

Maritime Names Political Shakespeare


The word “filibuster” can be traced back to a label given to pirates who marauded trade routes in the 17th and 18th centuries.   It originated from the Dutch word vrijbuiter, which literally translates to  “freebooter,”  [vrij (“‘free’”) +‎ buit (“‘booty’”) +‎ er].

The term spread across Europe with the Spanish and French translating it into filibustero and filibustier,  respectively.

Americans adapted the spelling and pronunciation to “filibuster” and expanded the definition to include mercenaries engaged in illicit military actions against foreign governments, referring in particular to Southern adventurers in Latin America.

In the mid-1800s, “filibuster” became popular in the U. S. Congress as a euphemism for delaying or blocking the passing of legislation by taking advantage of the procedural rules to hold the floor for inordinate amounts of time.    Senator Huey Long (D-LA) demonstrated a particular talent for filibustering, reciting everything from Shakespeare to recipes for Southern dishes for up to 15 hours at a time.

Everyday Legal Life Political

Rule of Thumb

According to ancient law, husbands were allowed to beat their wives with sticks that were no wider than the width of their thumb. Hence, the ‘rule of thumb’.

Everyday Legal Life Political


‘Posse’ started out as a technical term in law, part of the term ‘posse comitatus,’ which in Medieval Latin meant ‘power of the county.’

As such, it referred to a group of citizens summoned by a sheriff to preserve the public peace as allowed for by law. ‘Preserving the public peace’ so often meant hunting down a supposed criminal that ‘posse’ eventually came to mean any group organized to make a search or embark on a mission.

In even broader use it can refer to any group, period. Sometimes nowadays that group is a gang or a rock band but it can as easily be any bunch of politicians, models, architects, tourists, children, or what have you, acting in concert.

Legal Life Oddities Political

Pork Barrel

You might expect that the original pork barrels were barrels for storing pork — and you’re right. In the early 19th century, that’s exactly what ‘pork barrel’ meant.

But, the term was also used figuratively to mean ‘a supply of money’ or ‘one’s livelihood’ (a farmer, after all, could readily turn pork into cash).

When 20th-century legislators doled out appropriations that benefited their home districts, someone apparently made an association between the profit a farmer got from a barrel of pork and the benefits derived from certain state and federal projects. By 1909, ‘pork barrel’ was being used as a noun naming such government appropriations, and today the term is often used attributively in constructions such as ‘pork barrel politics’ or ‘pork barrel project.’