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 Life


We won’t complain about the origins of ‘plaintiff,’ although ‘complain’ and ‘plaintiff’ are probably distantly related. ‘Complain’ is thought to derive ultimately from ‘plangere,’ a Latin word meaning ‘to strike, beat one’s breast, or lament.’ ‘Plangere’ is an ancestor of ‘plaintiff’ too.

‘Plaintiff’ comes most immediately from the Middle English ‘plaintif,’ itself a Middle French borrowing; in Middle French, ‘plaintif’ functioned both as a noun and as an adjective meaning ‘lamenting, complaining.’ That ‘plaintif’ in turn comes from the Middle French ‘plaint,’ meaning ‘a lamentation.’ (The English words ‘plaintive’ and ‘plaint’ are also descendents of these Middle French terms.) And ‘plaint’ comes from the Latin ‘planctus,’ past participle of “plangere.” Logically enough, ‘plaintiff’ applies to the one who does the complaining in a legal case.

Everyday Life Literary

Out of the blue

Thomas Carlyle (1837).  The French Revolution.

‘Arrestment, sudden really as a bolt out of the blue, has hit strange victims.’



A logical assumption is that ‘marshal’ is related to ‘martial,’ but the resemblance is purely coincidental. Although most French words are derived from Latin, a few result from the 3rd-century Germanic occupation of France, and the early French ‘mareschal’ is one such word. ‘Mareschal’ came from Old High German ‘marahscalc,’ formed by combining ‘marah’ (horse) and ‘scalc’ (servant). ‘Mareschal’ originally meant ‘horse servant,’ but by the time it was borrowed into Middle English in the 13th century, it described a French high royal official. English applied the word to a similar position, but it eventually came to have other meanings. By contrast, ‘martial’ derives from ‘Mars,’ the Latin name for the god of war, and is completely unrelated.

Clothing Everyday Leisure Life

If the shoe Fits, Wear It

This is a misquote of another term:

John Ozell (1714) [translated] Moliere: “If the cap fits, put it on.”