Friday, January 2, 2009

The Republican Party As A Disembodied Butt

You occasionally hear people calling what's left of a Republican Party after its moderates are defeated a "rump". If anybody knows what the etymology of this term is, I'd be curious to hear. My guess is that the metaphor involves butchering or some such -- maybe the rump of an animal is usually left over after they chop off the other parts that people want more? In any event, I'm sort of amused to think of the contemporary GOP as a disembodied butt.

8 comments:

Matthew Yglesias said...

Yeah, of the pieces of meat that are commonly eaten the "rump" is the least desirable.

dr said...

From the online etymology dictionary:

--snip--
Sense of "small remnant" derives from "tail" and is first recorded 1649 in ref. to the Eng. Rump Parliament (December 1648-April 1653).
--snip--

Doesn't say why the English thought that was a good metaphor, but it reminds me of 'the tail wagging the dog.'

matt w said...

Totally speculating, the rump is the part of the animal that sits, as the Rump Parliament is the part of the parliament that was left sitting; and the name postdate Cromwell's famed speech dissolving the Rump where he reportedly said "You have sat too long...."

OTOH the only source I could find that claimed to have an etymology just said "remnant". But someone probably knows in what context the phrase first appeared in 1659.

Anonymous said...

Nor are you the first to giggle at its usage -- apparently during the era of the English Civil War, English kids took to exclaiming, "Kiss my parliament," as an indication of disrespect. Seriously.

-- Anonymous historian of Early Modern England

Stentor said...

I'm reminded of the way we always called the last slice of bread in the bag the "bread butt." Apparently normal people call it the "heel," which seems even more etymologically inexplicable.

The Flying Dutchman said...

Even the OED seems a little perplexed as to the origin of this sense, but cites the first use of it in 1649 with reference to the Long Parliament: "[T]his Rump of a Parliament with corrupt Maggots in it." The implication seems to be analogizing the Long Parliament to the least desirable piece of meat (cf. Matt Yglesias), the piece left behind, with the additional implication that, because it was left behind, it had gone bad and contains maggots, analogizing the meat to the Parliament and the maggots to the Members.

Interesting that in modern usage we've forgotten all about the nasty elements of this metaphor and simply use it as a synonym for "remnant."

BruceMcF said...

"Interesting that in modern usage we've forgotten all about the nasty elements of this metaphor and simply use it as a synonym for "remnant.""

A benefit, I would venture to say, of refrigeration in butcher's shops and supermarkets.

Of course, a hundred years ago, Argentinians were eating the best cuts of meat and shipping the rest to Britain as "corned beef" ... if most of your rump beef consumption is in some processed meat, it wouldn't ring the same bells as the last bit of meat at the open air market with the flies swarming around.

matt w said...

Stentor -- in my family we called it the "bout," which is French for the end piece -- maybe that's related?