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BALLOT

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BALLOT

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:38 pm

• ballot •


Pronunciation: bæ-lêt • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A sheet of paper with a list of candidates or issues used in voting. 2. The act or method of voting.

Notes: Today citizens of the United States are flocking to the polls to cast their ballots (ballots are cast) for its next president. As we do so, we can use the noun ballot as an intransitive verb with the preposition for or on: to ballot for a new president or ballot on the issue at hand. A person who ballots is a balloter or a balloteer.

In Play: Problems with a particular kind of ballot led to a questionable decision in the 2000 US presidential election: "Everyone hopes that all the Florida butterfly ballots will have fluttered away to Chad before the 2012 elections." However, this is a word that can elbow itself into our everyday conversations: "Your mother and I took a family ballot and decided to have spinach and broccoli for dinner, not pizza. (I get two votes since I am in charge of dinner tonight.)"

Word History: Today's Good Word came from French ballotte "small ball", especially one used in voting in the days when a person dropped balls into designated urns to vote. French seems to have borrowed this word from a dialect of Italian: ballotta "small ball", diminutive of balla "ball" (palla in standard Italian). The Italians clearly borrowed this word from German Ball, which is the same in English and other Germanic languages. Ball itself is related to bellows and blow via the association of blowing something up and making it round. We find B and L in many words referring to things round or roundish, such as bowl and balloon. While not all fools are round, the word fool originated in the Latin word follis "bellows", and started out referring to a windbag. The root of follis shares its source with ball.
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Re: BALLOT

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Nov 05, 2012 11:45 pm

The sheet of paper is not essential, of course, viz the balls. I don't remember voting on paper since school days. Louisiana has always had voting machines (in my memory) and relatively little recount problems. I remember being surprised that Fla. was using paper when the chad thing came up. I had assumed since we are last in nearly every list of desirables, everyone else had even more advanced machines.
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Re: BALLOT

Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Nov 06, 2012 12:54 am

Perry: Try to show a little more pride in your state. I ain't Texas, but it is at least our neighbor. That ought to count for something. Reminds me of one of my ancestors in the late 1800s who killed a man in self defense in LA. He high tailed it to Texas because he knew that any jury in LA who had the least chance of hanging a man could and would hang him. But LA has advanced since then. Hasn't it?
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Re: BALLOT

Postby MTC » Tue Nov 06, 2012 9:39 am

Putting the delicate questions of state pride and escape from the law aside for a moment, has anyone tracked down the origin of the idiom "to cast your (or "a") ballot?" Thus far my online search has come up empty. But when you consider that a ballot was originally a ball, "cast" seems a particulary vivid, appropriate, and energetic verb. We usually "cast our ballot" for--not against--a candidate. Of course if we dislike a candidate we could "cast our ballot ("ball") at him or her. Bonk! Besides the "throw" sense, "cast" also means to select an actor for a part. And this too seems fitting, politicians being full time actors, e.g., "He cast his ballot for the Reagan/ Schwarzenegger ticket." (He, not I!) But I have come to the end of my musing on casting ballots and fade languidly away like the Colorado River into the Mexican desert... No ballots to worry about there.
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Re: BALLOT

Postby David McWethy » Tue Nov 06, 2012 10:54 am

Dr. G.'s epistle included the phrase:
Today's Good Word came from French ballotte "small ball", especially one used in voting in the days when a person dropped balls into designated urns to vote. French seems to have borrowed this word from a dialect of Italian:

I was once a candidate for a local election who "came in third in a field of two", and can attest, affirm, and swear (I did a lot of that at the time) that to win an election a candidate has to have a lot of balls....

But I could be wrong.
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Re: BALLOT

Postby MTC » Tue Nov 06, 2012 12:46 pm

Quite a laugh, David!
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Re: BALLOT

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Nov 06, 2012 1:03 pm

MTC wrote:Quite a laugh, David!


I'll piggy back on that! !


When I was in boarding school in a monastery-school,
the monks did their voting using black and white
balls, which were marble sized. I was told at the time
to receive a black ball was the origin of term
"being black-balled", thumbs down, being voted against.
And that that term went further back in history than
the black ball in pool, "being behind the black ball", which
has similar designation.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: BALLOT

Postby Slava » Tue Nov 13, 2012 8:23 pm

A modern version:

The Hamburg Inn in Iowa City has a "Coffee Bean Poll: [a] series of mason jars and the bowl of coffee beans that stay out from just before the Iowa Caucus, in January, until election night. Each patron is allowed one bean per visit — strictly on the honor system, of course — and they cast the pellet in the jar marked for their preferred candidate. ... Obama got 6,001 beans to Romney’s 1,741. There was also a “vinegar” vote, for “sour on all candidates,” but the intrinsically optimistic Iowans put just 197 beans in that jar. The results were broadcast on local television and highlighted in the Iowa City press."

Source article for quotes here.
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Re: BALLOT

Postby David McWethy » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:53 pm

I'll add this trivial detritis to the comments of two of my mentors:

Luke notes that term "black-balled"
went further back in history than the black ball in pool, "being behind the black ball", which has similar designation

I believe that it was W.C. Fields who said that
...a proficiency at pool is a sign of a mis-spent youth

That being the case I stand self-convicted, because the correct expression is "behind the 8-ball" (which happens, only tangentially, to be black, decorated with a black eight in a white circle) rather than "behind the black ball".

And regarding the "Coffee Bean Poll" conducted by The Hamburg Inn (in Iowa City, Iowa): If I remember correctly, this legend is given substance almost exactly as described in Slava's citation during the third season of the outstanding television series The West Wing, except that the locus was Hartsfield's Landing, New Hampshire, and I believe the television storyline mentioned that this "Coffee Bean Poll" had correctly picked the winner of every presidential election since William Henry Harrison.

Additionally, this segment featured a vignette where--as a firmly established ritual--all 42 residents of Hartsfield's Landing (including one 18-year-old who is voting for the first time) cast their (paper) ballots as each name is called by the Registrar of Voters (who is also the principal of Hartsfield's school).

But I could be wrong...
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