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Chris -- 2018-04-11

#1 2015-08-03 00:10:46

From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2659

drop the writ

Today an election was called in Canada. The vote won’t happen for another 11 weeks, making this one of our longest-ever elections (not, of course, that the leaders of the parties haven’t been campaigning for several months). Election time around here is also The Time of Weird Words. We get to hear some unusual words and phrases that we haven’t heard for a while. Many young Canadians, hearing them for the first time, will no doubt be scratching their heads. One of our language mavens, Word Nerd Howard Richler, recaps some of the stranger terms in his blog. At least one of these words, hustings [hustlings], has been eggcorned. It was discussed on this site in the pre-Forum days.

Most of our odd election-time phrases belong to larger world of English-speaking parliamentary government. One term, though, seems to be mainly used in Canada. We talk here about “dropping the writ” when an election is called. In a federal election, the current prime minister goes to the Governer General and gets his/her signature on a request asking that the chief electoral officer issue writs of election in the ridings. The writs don’t really get dropped in any literal sense and for some years the Canadian media tried, without success, to squash the phrase. You can read one of the annual rants about the phrase here. There are some who speculate that “drop the writ” is a corruption of the legal phrase “draw up the writ” and that that the suddenness of parliamentary election calls promoted the switch to “drop”—the election call gets metaphorically dropped in the lap of the unsuspecting public. No evidence supports this speculation. If it were true, though, it would make the phase an interesting eggcorn.

Last edited by kem (2015-08-03 00:21:54)

Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.



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