Monday, 10 May 2010

The Wordy Wookie's Election Special!

I know, yes, I'm joining in! It might be a little behind, but let me present my belatedly bloated Election Special of an update! It's been impossible to hide from it for the past month, and it's certainly not finished yet. When it comes to politics, it seems that I've been pipped to the post in responding to all the major issues. Nonetheless, I'll keep digging to answer the question that's really been playing on everyone's minds...

Think about it: where does the word "Tory" come from?

I'll use "Tory" today, and I'll be talking about the Conservatives, the big blue party who came out on top of the election (just). It's a nickname they always seem to have had, but have you ever stopped to think about where it came from? To help understand the roots properly and dramatically, I say we work backwards on this one.

Carry yourself to the 17th century, where the interesting bit of etymology kicks off. In fact, it was the name of the party at that time. In 1689, the "Tories" came into being as a party, upholding the traditional authority of church and state, and called themselves as such until 1886, when they became the Conservatives. To call them the "Tories", then, is almost to mock their willingness to cling to older ideals - the idea that their policies haven't changed since 1689.

On becoming the name of a party, the word "Tory" spread in use, but that's not to say it wasn't already there. In 1679, James, the Duke of York, was excluded from succession to the throne, on account of being a Roman Catholic. Those who came to his defence, suggesting that he should still be allowed to become king, were known as "Tories". Should we pursue this thought any longer, we'll find ourselves wrapped up in the complicated world of who should have really been king or queen at any given time, and did it matter at all. Forget that, it's a transitional phase for "Tory". Instead, think more about the roots of the word. It certainly didn't come from nowhere, and we haven't quite gotten to the bottom of it all yet.

Calling James, Duke of York, a complete baddie purely for his religion would be wrong nowadays, but it's important to know that he liked the Irish. For most people, it doesn't make a lot of difference either way, but it really does here. At the time, it was highly unpopular to disagree with his exclusion, so the politicians of the time bandied around with all sorts of Irish-based insults to call his followers. Their lowest point in the whole affair was "bogtrotters", but they eventually came to "Tory". How?

Them being the root of all the namecalling, "Tory" comes from the Irish. It's actually the anglicised version of "t├│raidhe", but much easier to spell. To our English eyes, it doesn't look like much of an insult, but in Gaelic it means "the pursued" or "pursuer", both of which are to be used with contextually hostile intent. Thus, we arrive at the common translation of the time: "outlaw". It would have been quite the Gaelic insult for the "Tories" of the time, but they don't seem to have paid much attention.

"Tories" have been on the run for nearly 400 years, it seems! I hope that's been a little insightful for you. The Conservative nickname certainly does have quite the history, and it's a good reminder as to why you should always know a little about etymology before you accept any nickname. It could well stick as well as this one. Only one question remains - will you be calling them "Conservatives" or "Tories" now? For the sake of editorial neutrality, I'm saying nothing.

On a purely unprofessional note, read the first word of every paragraph...


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