Printable Version
Pronunciation: fraym Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: This word has so many meanings that we are restricting it today to three verbal meanings: 1. To build the basic structure of something, as to frame a house. 2. To form, shape, determine the nature of something, as to frame a question. 3. To stage the evidence of some misdeed so that it incriminates someone who is innocent.

Notes: This word was once a political buzzword as Democrats had been convinced by the work of California linguist George Lakoff that their losing streak is the result of allowing the Republicans to frame the political issues. The interesting point for us here is that this sense of the term does not mean "put a border around", as in "to frame a picture", but to "give the basic structure to", as in "to frame a house". The framers of the constitution never expected the problems of governance that we have today.

In Play: By successfully framing the tax issue with such expressions as 'tax burden' which demands 'tax relief', the Republicans convinced many Americans that we are overtaxed. (Taxes are, in fact, comparatively low in the US.) By changing the term 'inheritance tax' to 'death tax', many voters believe it to be a tax on death rather than on exorbitant inheritances. Now the Democrats will try their hand at it. Let's see what happens when framing becomes a competition. It could be fun to watch.

Word History: Another interesting aspect of this Good Word is that it is another one of those rare home-grown native English words. It started as Middle English framen, from Old English framian "to further, to advance" from fram "forward". Fram then went on to become today's from. The original root that produced the [fr], is the same one that gave Latin per "through", English for, forth, and the prefix pere- "over, across" in Russian perestroika "rebuiding".

Dr. Goodword,

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