Trend Watch

Manafort Judge: 'Oligarch' Too 'Pejorative'

'Oligarch' comes from the Greek "rule by the few"

Lookups for the words oligarch and pejorative spiked a respective 6000% and 2800% on August 1, 2018 when, during the trial of Paul Manafort, the judge asked prosecutors to stop using oligarch because of its pejorative connotations. According to The Washington Post:

It’s not a crime to be wealthy, said U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. And the pejorative term “oligarchs” and evidence of home renovations aren’t necessarily relevant to the charges in question, he added.

The judge even made a suggestion, according to The Hill:

“Find another term to use,” said Judge T.S. Ellis, saying government prosecutors can instead refer to oligarchs as “people who financed the campaign.”

Oligarch means “a member or supporter of a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.” It comes from the Greek word meaning “rule by the few.”

Pejorative means "having negative connotations, especially: tending to disparage or belittle." It comes from the Latin pejorare, meaning "to make or become worse." This also serves as the root for an English word often encountered in the field of linguistics, pejoration, defined as "a change for the worse, specifically : an historical process by which the semantic and connotative status of a word tends to decline."

Pejorative is used as both a noun and an adjective; the noun form appears to be slightly older (Ogilvie's Imperial Dictionary of 1882 asserted that "Poetaster is a pejorative of poet"); our earliest current evidence for the adjective occurs in 1886.

On Mandeville's own showing, the pejorative comparison was arbitrary: the "lower" might just as well have been explained in terms of the "higher."
The Natural Reformer, 9 May 1886

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