Disusage presents the contradictions and foibles of usage manuals, style guides, and the quirky folks who love them. This week: “fiscal cliff” notwithstanding,  we can still chuckle at the nonsense heritage of political labels.

"/> Disusage: Politicks — The Airship
By Jake Davis
Image: ABC News

Image: ABC News

Disusage presents the contradictions and foibles of usage manuals, style guides, and the quirky folks who love them. This week: social security may be getting disemboweled to prevent the gradual slope of the "fiscal cliff," but we can still chuckle at the nonsense heritage of political labels.

conservational; conservative; conservatory, adj. These words are to be distinguished. Conservational = of or relating to conservation. Conservative =characterized by a tendency to preserve or keep intact unchanged; believing in the maintenance of existing political and social institutions. Conservatory (rarely used as an an adjective) = preservative.
—from Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd edition, 2009

conservative for moderate. “A conservative estimate”; “a conservative forecast”; “a conservative statement,” and so on. These and many other abuses of the word are of recent growth in the newspapers and “halls of legislation.” Having been found to have several meanings, conservative seems to be thought to mean everything.
—from Ambrose Bierce’s Write It Right, 1909

liberal. In l. education the adjective retains a sense that is almost obsolete, and yet is near enough to some extant sense to make misunderstanding possible. A liberal education is neither one in which expense is not spared, nor one in which enlightened methods of teaching prevail, nor even one that instils broadmindedness; or rather it is not so called because it is any of these. It is the education that used to be considered the only fitting one for what used to be called a gentleman (Latin liber a free man), and is opposed on the one hand to technical or professional or any special training, and on the other to education that stops short before manhood is reached. The L. Arts of the Middle Ages were Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric, Music, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Astronomy.
—from Fowler’s Modern English Usage, 2nd edition, 1965

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