• hustings •
hês-tingz • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, plural
Meaning: 1. (US) The location of a political campaign speech. 2. (US) The political campaign circuit, the activities that go into a political campaign. 3. (Britain) Local, usually city courts in Britain that no longer convene, except on rare occasions in London.
Notes: The problem facing users of this word is determining its grammatical number. Husting simply isn't used any more (as my spellchecker now reminds me) even though the meaning of the word suggests it is possible. Most dictionaries say that hustings is singular or plural, but I have been able to find examples of the word with singular agreement (a hustings, the hustings is) only on British websites, and precious few there.
In Play: As we close the gap on the political conventions in the US this summer, today's Good Word will be heard a lot: "Mother always told me to beware the promises of politicians on the hustings." We are always safe using this word in the plural: "You would think Corey Publican is out on the hustings the way she rants on her political hobby horses."
Word History: Today's word comes from Old English husting "court". This word originated in Old Norse husthing, a compound comprising hus "house" + thing "assembly". It was originally a council convened by a king or an earl that acted as a judicial body. By the 18th century it was a court in the city of London that met irregularly in the Guildhall. It was in this building that members of Parliament came to be nominated by a speech given from a platform upon which the Lord Mayor and aldermen were seated. This practice ended with the Ballot Act of 1872. By that time, however, the platform itself was called the "hustings" and, from there, it went on to refer to the place of any political speech or the process of being nominated or elected to public office. (We are grateful that Stan Davis took time off from following the hustings on TV to suggest today's very topical Good Word.)
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