Trend Watch

GOP Rep: Election a 'Referendum'

Lookups rose almost 5000%


Referendum (which, before you ask, may be pluralized as either referenda or referendums) rose to the top of our lookups on November 8th, 2017, with an increase of almost 5000% over its typical rate.

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The word has been used in a figurative manner since the 19th century.

Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Virginia, told CNN's "New Day" that Tuesday night's Democratic win in his state was a referendum on President Donald Trump, criticizing what he said was the President's rhetoric for hurting the party.
"I think last night was a referendum. I don't think there was any way you could look at it a different way, to be honest with you, and be intellectually consistent," he said Wednesday morning.
— Maegan Vazquez, CNN (cnn.com), 8 Nov. 2017

The word, which may be traced back to a Latin word meaning “to refer” (referre), is not particularly old, with use specific to the meaning “the principle or practice of submitting to popular vote a measure passed upon or proposed by a legislative body or by popular initiative” dating back to the early 19th century.

We have been using referendum in a somewhat figurative manner since the late 19th century, at least, and the word has been often encountered in the early days of November, used in a political context similar to the one quoted above, since the early 20th century.

Democratic managers called it a referendum on President Hoover’s administration to date to which the electorate would respond either with a vote of confidence or a repudiation of his policies.
— Theodore C. Wallen, New York Herald Tribune, 5 Nov. 1930



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