• barnstorm •
bahrn-storm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive or intransitive
Meaning: To tour rural areas, making stops at small towns along the way.
Notes: Today's word is also quite topical in light of the barnstorming of the presidential candidates in the early primary states. This, of course, makes them barnstormers. Barnstorm is related by one constituent to barnburner, but the meanings are unrelated. Besides someone who burns down barns, a barnburner is an unexpectedly huge success.
In Play: Today's Good Word refers to any tour of small towns, but it is used most frequently today in referring to campaigning politicians: "Corey Publican is giving one barnburner speech after another as he barnstorms the state." However, it may be applied to other campaigns through small towns and villages: "Bertha D. Blues (mother of the Blues Brothers) started her singing career barnstorming road houses in the small towns of the deep South."
Word History: The origin of today's Good Word is obvious: it is a compound of barn and storm. The history is rather interesting, though. It started out in the 1880s as a journalistic term referring to theatrical groups that traveled through rural areas, sometimes literally playing in barns. By the 1890s its coverage had already been expanded to political campaigns through small towns. This is the sense in which it is used most widely today. In the 1920s, however, it was also used to refer to tours of stunt flyers in rural areas. Stunt flyers would fly over small towns to attract attention, then land in a farmer's field, where they would collect money from onlookers in exchange for a show or rides in the airplane.