Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 29, 2016 is:
cabal \kuh-BAHL\ noun
1 : the artifices and intrigues of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government); also : a group engaged in such artifices and intrigues
"A 'cabal' of wealthy conservatives has begun using New York State's campaign finance laws to sway local elections…." — Michael Gormley, Newsday (New York), 24 Aug. 2016
"Looking back, it didn't take a vast conspiracy to replace truth with lies: only a greedy, shameless ghostwriter; another lazy biographer; and a couple of filmmakers who embraced shoddy reporting for its sensationalizing value. That small, self-serving cabal managed to misinform generations of Americans with malicious myths that misshaped history." — Dana D. Kelley, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 19 Aug. 2016
Did you know?
In A Child's History of England, Charles Dickens associates the word cabal with a group of five ministers in the government of England's King Charles II. The initial letters of the names or titles of those men (Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale) spell cabal, and Dickens dubbed them the "Cabal Ministry." These five men were widely regarded as invidious, secretive plotters and their activities may have encouraged English speakers to associate cabal with high-level government intrigue. But their names are not the source of the word cabal, which was in use decades before Charles II ascended the throne. The term can be traced back through French to cabbala, the Medieval Latin name for the Kabbalah, a traditional system of esoteric Jewish mysticism.
On this day in 2005, New York Times reporter Judith Miller is released from a federal detention center in Alexandria, Virginia, after agreeing to testify in the investigation into the leaking of the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. Miller had been behind bars since July 6, 2005, for refusing to reveal a confidential source and testify before a grand jury that was looking into the so-called Plame Affair. She decided to testify after the source she had been protecting, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, signed a waiver giving her permission to speak.
The Plame Affair dates back to a July 6, 2003 op-ed piece for the New York Times written by former U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson, Plame’s husband. In it, Wilson questioned the Bush Administration’s reasons for going to war in Iraq. Later that month, on July 14, undercover agent Valerie Plame’s identity was revealed in a newspaper column by Robert Novak. Wilson’s claim that the disclosure was retaliation by the White House for his op-ed piece sparked an investigation in December 2003 led by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. A 1982 law made it illegal to reveal information about a covert agent to anyone not authorized to receive such classified information.
Fitzgerald interviewed President George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top administration officials, along with various journalists. Although Miller hadn’t written an article about Plame, she did meet with Libby shortly after Wilson’s op-ed piece was published and Fitzgerald believed Miller had information that was relevant to his investigation.
After 85 days in jail, Miller was released and testified before a grand jury that prior to the Novak column, she had several discussions with Scooter Libby in which he talked about Plame. On November 9 of that same year, Miller announced her retirement from the Times after a 28-year career with the newspaper.
On March 6, 2007, Scooter Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements to federal investigators in the Plame investigation. In June, he was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and fined $250,000. However, one month later, on July 2, President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s prison term before the ex-White House aide served any time.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 28, 2016 is:
vamoose \vuh-MOOSS\ verb
: to depart quickly
With the sheriff and his posse hot on their tails, the bank robbers knew they had better vamoose.
"Five minutes later the police arrived, and of course there was no sign of illegal activity. The crooks monitored the police radio and knew when to vamoose." — The Rockford (Illinois) Register Star, 14 July 2016
Did you know?
In the 1820s and '30s, the American Southwest was rough-and-tumble territory—the true Wild West. English-speaking cowboys, Texas Rangers, and gold prospectors regularly rubbed elbows with Spanish-speaking vaqueros in the local saloons, and a certain amount of linguistic intermixing was inevitable. One Spanish term that caught on with English speakers was vamos, which means "let's go." Cowpokes and dudes alike adopted the word, at first using a range of spellings and pronunciations that varied considerably in their proximity to the original Spanish form. But when the dust settled, the version most American English speakers were using was vamoose.
On this day in 1941, the Boston Red Sox’s Ted Williams plays a double-header against the Philadelphia Athletics on the last day of the regular season and gets six hits in eight trips to the plate, to boost his batting average to .406 and become the first player since Bill Terry in 1930 to hit .400. Williams, who spent his entire career with the Sox, played his final game exactly 19 years later, on September 28, 1960, at Boston’s Fenway Park and hit a home run in his last time at bat, for a career total of 521 homeruns.
Williams was born on August 30, 1918, in San Diego, and began his major league career with the Red Sox in 1939. 1941 marked Williams’ best season. In addition to his .406 batting average–no major league player since him has hit .400–the left fielder led the league with 37 homers, 135 runs and had a slugging average of .735. Also that season, Williams, whose nicknames included “The Splendid Splinter” and “The Thumper,” had an on-base percentage of .553, a record that remained unbroken for 61 years, until Barry Bonds achieved a percentage of .582 in 2002.
In 1942, Williams won the American League Triple Crown, for highest batting average and most RBIs and homeruns. He duplicated the feat in 1947. In 1946 and 1949, he was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player and in June 1960, he became the fourth player in major league history to hit 500 homers. He was selected to the All-Star team 17 times.
Williams played his last game on September 28, 1960, and retired with a lifetime batting average of .344, a .483 career on-base percentage and 2,654 hits. His achievements are all the more impressive because his career was interrupted twice for military service: Williams was a Marine Corps pilot during World War II and the Korean War and as a result missed a total of nearly five seasons from baseball.
Williams, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, managed the Washington Senators (renamed the Texas Rangers in 1972) from 1969 to 1972. In 1984, the Boston Red Sox retired his uniform number (nine). Williams died of cardiac arrest at age 83 on July 5, 2002, in Florida. In a controversial move, his son sent his father’s body to be frozen at a cryonics laboratory.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 27, 2016 is:
peculiar \pih-KYOOL-yer\ adjective
1 : characteristic of only one person, group, or thing : distinctive
4 : eccentric
"'I'm not like you. … I'm common, just like my grandfather.' Emma shook her head. 'Is that really what you think?' 'If I could do something spectacular like you, don't you think I would've noticed by now? … There's nothing peculiar about me. I'm the most average person you'll ever meet.'" — Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, 2011
"It's not hard to spot players of the most popular smartphone game of all time. They have a peculiar way of carrying their devices in front of them with one hand, says John Hanke, the technology whiz behind Pokémon Go…." — Ryan Mac, Forbes, 23 Aug. 2016
Did you know?
Peculiar comes from Latin peculiaris, an adjective meaning "privately owned" or "special" that is derived from the word for "property," peculium. Those words are cognate with pecu, a word for "cattle" that is also etymologically linked to a few English words related to money. Among these are pecuniary ("of or relating to money"), peculate ("to embezzle"), and impecunious ("having very little or no money"). Peculiar borrowed the Latin meanings of peculiaris, but it eventually came to refer to qualities possessed only by a particular individual, group, or thing. That sense is commonly followed by the preposition to, as in "a custom peculiar to America." In time, peculiar was being used specifically for unusual qualities, as well as the individuals that possessed them, which led to the word's "odd," "curious," and "eccentric" senses.
On this day in 1779, the Continental Congress appoints John Adams to travel to France as minister plenipotentiary in charge of negotiating treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britain during the Revolutionary War.
Adams had traveled to Paris in 1778 to negotiate an alliance with France, but had been unceremoniously dismissed when Congress chose Benjamin Franklin as sole commissioner. Soon after returning to Massachusetts in mid-1779, Adams was elected as a delegate to the state convention to draw up a new constitution; he was involved in these duties when he learned of his new diplomatic commission. Accompanied by his young sons John Quincy and Charles, Adams sailed for Europe that November aboard the French ship Sensible, which sprang a leak early in the voyage and missed its original destination (Brest), instead landing at El Ferrol, in northwestern Spain. After an arduous journey by mule train across the Pyrenees and into France, Adams and his group reached Paris in early February 1780.
While in Paris, Adams wrote to Congress almost daily (sometimes several letters a day) sharing news about British politics, British and French naval activities and his general perspective on European affairs. Conditions were unfavorable for peace at the time, as the war was going badly for the Continental Army, and the blunt and sometimes confrontational Adams clashed with the French government, especially the powerful Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes. In mid-June, Adams began a correspondence with Vergennes in which he pushed for French naval assistance, antagonizing both Vergennes and Franklin, who brought the matter to the attention of Congress.
By that time, Adams had departed France for Holland, where he was attempting to negotiate a loan from the Dutch. Before the end of the year, he was named American minister to the Netherlands, replacing Henry Laurens, who was captured at sea by the British. In June 1781, capitulating to pressure from Vergennes and other French diplomats, Congress acted to revoke Adams’ sole powers as peacemaker with Britain, appointing Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay and Laurens to negotiate alongside him.
The tide of the war was turning in America’s favor, and Adams returned to Paris in October 1782 to take up his part in the peace negotiations. As Jefferson didn’t travel to Europe and Laurens was in failing health after his release from the Tower of London, it was left to Adams, Jay and Franklin to represent American interests. Adams and Jay both distrusted the French government (in contrast with Franklin), but their differences of opinion and diplomatic styles allowed the team to negotiate favorable terms in the Peace of Paris (1783). The following year, Jefferson arrived to take Adams’ place as American minister to France, forming a lifelong bond with Adams and his family before the latter left to take up his new post as American ambassador to London and continue his distinguished record of foreign service on behalf of the new nation.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 26, 2016 is:
tantivy \tan-TIV-ee\ adverb
: at a gallop
The horse rushed tantivy over the dirt roads that wound through the fields and pastures.
"Thus it came about that Denby and his man, riding tantivy to the rescue, met the raiders two miles down the trail…." — Francis Lynde, The Helpers, 1899
Did you know?
Tantivy is an adverb as well as a noun that refers to a rapid gallop. Although its precise origin isn't known, one theory has it that tantivy represents the sound of a galloping horse’s hooves. The noun does double duty as a word meaning "the blare of a trumpet or horn." This is probably due to confusion with tantara, a word for the sound of a trumpet that came about as an imitation of that sound. Both tantivy and tantara were used during foxhunts; in the heat of the chase, people may have jumbled the two.
For the first time in U.S. history, a debate between major party presidential candidates is shown on television. The presidential hopefuls, John F. Kennedy, a Democratic senator of Massachusetts, and Richard M. Nixon, the vice president of the United States, met in a Chicago studio to discuss U.S. domestic matters.
Kennedy emerged the apparent winner from this first of four televised debates, partly owing to his greater ease before the camera than Nixon, who, unlike Kennedy, seemed nervous and declined to wear makeup. Nixon fared better in the second and third debates, and on October 21 the candidates met to discuss foreign affairs in their fourth and final debate. Less than three weeks later, on November 8, Kennedy won 49.7 percent of the popular vote in one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history, surpassing by a fraction the 49.6 percent received by his Republican opponent.
One year after leaving the vice presidency, Nixon returned to politics, winning the Republican nomination for governor of California. Although he lost the election, Nixon returned to the national stage in 1968 in a successful bid for the presidency. Like Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Nixon declined to debate his opponent in the 1968 presidential campaign. Televised presidential debates returned in 1976, and have been held in every presidential campaign since.