Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Word history

I have another word history on my Word a Day calendar (thanks again, Samantha!), this one on "boycott."
Charles C. Boycott seems to have become a household word because of his strong sense of duty to his employer. And Englishman and former British soldier, Boycott was the estate agent of the Early of Erne in County Mayo, Ireland. The earl was one of the absentee landowners who as a group held most of the land in Ireland. Boycott was chosen in the fall of 1880 to be the test case for a new policy advocated by Charles Parnell, an Irish politician who wanted land reform. Any landlord who would not change lower rents or any tenant who took over the farm of an evicted tenant would be given the complete cold shoulder by Parnell's supporters. Boycott refused to change lower rents and ejected his tenants. At this point members of Parnell's Irish Land League stepped in, and Boycott and his family found themselves isolated -- without servants, farmhands, service in stores, or mail delivery. Boycott's name was quickly adopted as the term for this treatment, not just in English but in other languages such as French, Dutch, German, and Russian.


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