||A Place For Mavericks
by Alec Mcewen
CONNIVANCE. A Montreal political writer predicted in the Calgary Herald that the new Conservative leader would not enjoy the "same connivance with Quebec provincial parties" that Brian Mulroney had experienced. Perhaps that`s not a bad thing, because the verb connive comes from the Latin connivere, to wink or to close the eyes. Its two principal modem meanings are to pretend ignorance of or to encourage wrongdoing, and to cooperate secretly or conspire with others for some unlawful purpose.
DEFENDING THE FAITH. A Chicago columnist, in a Calgary Herald article, asked rhetorically: "Wasn`t the Anglican Church (the `faith` each reigning British monarch is supposed to be defender of) founded so that Henry VIII could shed his" first wife to marry another? True, the initials ED., an abbreviation of fidei defensor, have appeared beside the monarch`s head on English coins for almost 300 years, yet the title originally signified a defender of the Roman Catholic, not the Anglican, faith. Although Henry subsequently cut other ties to Rome, he and his royal successors evidently saw no reason to relinquish the papal designation as religious protector.
FULSOME. A Globe and Mail reviewer of a 700-page biography of Edmund Burke suggested that until a "fulsome" life of the 18thcentury parliamentarian appears, readers might be better served by an earlier, 75 -page account by another author. Fulsome is one of those words, such as enormity and alternately, that are potentially ambiguous and should be used with caution. The original meaning of fulsome as full or abundant still survives, but over the years its etymological association with foulsome may have helped make the adjective a more familiar substitute for offensively excessive, especially with respect to flattering language or behaviour. Although the reviewer`s use of fulsome is clear enough from the context, a better choice would have been complete or comprehensive.
MAVERICK. A report released by two Calgary organizations recommends cooperation among Canadian export businesses that hope to penetrate the Mexican market, for there`s "no place for mavericks." The word comes from Samuel Augustus Maverick, a Texas cattle rancher, who in 1845 accepted a large herd of cattle as payment for a debt. When the animals were allowed to run wild without being branded, they were seized by others who applied their own marks of ownership. Maverick objected to this dishonest, if strictly legal, range practice. Thereafter, his name was given to stray, unbranded yearlings, and eventually to persons of unorthodox behaviour.
PARAPHRASE. Barbara Amiel, writing in Maclean`s about a Canadian hamburger outlet in Moscow, remarked: "To paraphrase Charles Wilson, the former president of General Motors: `What`s good for McDonald`s is probably good for Russia."` To paraphrase means to repeat another person`s statement, using different words
without altering the original sense. Amiel`s comment was not a paraphrase; it merely adapted a common misquotation. Wilson was asked, during the Senate hearings concerning his appointment as Secretary of Defense in 1953, whether he would be able to make a decision on behalf of the US govemment that might conflict with his corporate interests. He replied that he could foresee no such conflict because "for years I thought that what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa." This was simply a repetition of an observation made by Wilson, in essentially the same words, 10 years earlier. Yet it became distorted by his critics to suggest that the speaker was putting General Motors ahead of his country.
COCK AND BULL. In its report that the novelist Yves Beauchemin was lamenting his difficulties in trying to get served in French in Old Montreal, the Globe and Mail pictured a situation where the evergrowing "hordes of non-francophones" in that city will mean that English "rules the roost." Although the origin of that phrase is uncertain, it is commonly supposed to refer to the rooster who keeps his hens in order and is therefore maitre chez lui. But the much earlier form was rule the roast, evidently associated with a woman`s control over her kitchen or a man`s right to carve the joint of meat at the family table. Since a rooster was the emblem of ancient Gaul, and rosbif is a French pejorative term for an Englishman, it may not be altogether clear just who is ruling what in Quebec.