Printable Version
Pronunciation: red Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. The color of blood or ruddy, similar to that color. 2. Communist, belonging to or related to the Communist Party (the color of its flag). 3. Republican, related to the Republican Party in the US (new).

Notes: Today's adjective is an old and short one, so the comparative and superlative are created with the old Germanic suffixes: redder and reddest. It is the case that this form of comparison is on its way out of the English language, so you may hear more red and most red occasionally. You must use the two-word (analytic) forms when comparing adjective with adjective, as, "This flower is more red than pink" ("redder than pink" doesn't work here). Elsewhere, however, redder and reddest are still preferred.

In Play: These Reds give Democrats the Blues. Today's Good Word brings us a piquant bit of lexical irony. The color so closely associated with the Communists, who were the object of the Red-hunts by conservative Republican Senators like Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon in the 1950s, has recently become the color of the Republican Party itself. Red states now are not simply Communist dictatorships but also US states in which Republicans win elections. US TV networks years ago chose the color blue to represent states where Democrats win elections and red for those where the Republicans dominate. However, no one dared to refer to them as "red" states until we were sure of the disintegration of the original Red Bloc of nations.

Word History: This Good Word originated as the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root *reudh-/*roudh- "red, ruddy". In Latin it picked up several different suffixes, producing discrete Latin words: rubeus "red" and robur, robus "red oak", with its adjective robustus "strong as an oak"—and don't forget rufus "reddish". In English it is, of course, today's Good Word, rouge in French (which we also borrowed), rot in German, rojo in Spanish, and rosso in Italian. Portuguese has roxo, but in this language the word means "purple". "Red" is vermelho, cousin of English vermillion. For another slice of PIE, read about hippos and feathers here.

Dr. Goodword,

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