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Puzzling/Nonsensical expressions.

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Brock
1384505.  Sun Jul 04, 2021 5:43 am Reply with quote

I've just been listening to an interview with Nick Herbert (Lord Herbert of South Downs), who was recently appointed as the UK's Special Envoy on LGBT rights:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-appoints-new-special-envoy-on-lgbt-rights-16-may-2021

Is this some new definition of "envoy" that I'm unaware of? I thought an "envoy" was someone on a diplomatic mission. The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word as "someone who is sent as a representative from one government or organization to another".

 
tetsabb
1384509.  Sun Jul 04, 2021 6:17 am Reply with quote

Similarly, I hate the use of the word 'czar' for someone who is in charge of enforcing a government's policy on a certain matter. For example, John Penrose is this government's 'anti-corruption czar'.... the man who is married to Dido Harding.

For one thing, it should be transliterated as 'tsar', from царь.
Secondly, the tsar was the absolute ruler of Russia, not merely some government flunkey.

 
Brock
1384511.  Sun Jul 04, 2021 6:34 am Reply with quote

tetsabb wrote:
Similarly, I hate the use of the word 'czar' for someone who is in charge of enforcing a government's policy on a certain matter. For example, John Penrose is this government's 'anti-corruption czar'.... the man who is married to Dido Harding.


I think that may be a media nickname. The Government website calls him their "Anti-Corruption Champion":

https://www.gov.uk/government/people/john-penrose

Still a pretty weird job title though.

 
suze
1384515.  Sun Jul 04, 2021 8:19 am Reply with quote

tetsabb wrote:
For one thing, it should be transliterated as 'tsar', from царь.


The spelling czar is a bit odd. It "looks Polish", but a Polish noun spelled thus - and there is one, but it doesn't mean tsar - would be pronounced "char". The Polish word that does mean tsar is car. (The everyday Polish word for a car is auto. Poles pretend not to know that this is a loan from German.)

In fact, the peculiar spelling appears to be Latin from Russian via German and Polish, approximately. It is first noted in 1555, but has lost ground to tsar since WWII.


As for the use of this word for a "government flunkey", that is first noted in the US in 1866. As Brock says, it has usually been a media term rather than the official name of a position, but the British government has used it officially at least once.

 
Brock
1384607.  Mon Jul 05, 2021 3:52 pm Reply with quote

I wonder whether "tsar" gets used because it's a nice short word to fit into headlines? Here's a headline from today's Guardian:

"Europe’s rights tsar urges MPs and peers to oppose protest curbs"

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2021/jul/05/europe-rights-tsar-urges-mps-peers-oppose-protest-curbs

The person in question is actually Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. (Yes, the UK is still a member of the Council of Europe.)

 
Alexander Howard
1384724.  Wed Jul 07, 2021 11:19 am Reply with quote

I read about a government 'anti-corruption czar', which suggests that someone has a sense of irony, or no knowledge of Russian history.

 
PDR
1384728.  Wed Jul 07, 2021 12:45 pm Reply with quote

In Alistair Maclean's book "The Golden Gate" one of the secondary characters is a federal government appointee described as "the President's energy czar". That was written in the mid 70s IIRC, so the usage isn't a new thing.

PDR

 
Brock
1384738.  Wed Jul 07, 2021 1:14 pm Reply with quote

I don't think that anyone is claiming that the usage is new in the US; in post 1384515, suze said that it goes back to 1866. This article in Time talks about Woodrow Wilson appointing a so-called "industry czar" during World War I. (It does appear to be primarily a media term rather than an official one.)

When did it start being used in the UK, though? The earliest British "czar" I remember is Louise Casey, appointed by the Blair government in 1999 as head of the Rough Sleepers' Unit. She was commonly referred to as its "homelessness czar" (e.g. here).

 
PDR
1384741.  Wed Jul 07, 2021 1:21 pm Reply with quote

Erm... Alistair MacLean was Scottish.

PDR

 
Brock
1384744.  Wed Jul 07, 2021 1:32 pm Reply with quote

PDR wrote:
Erm... Alistair MacLean was Scottish.


The book was set in the USA! Hardly surprising that he would have used US terminology - there wouldn't really have been a British equivalent of American government "czars" at the time.

EDIT: This 2013 Guardian article suggests that they may have started with the Blair government:

"Ministers have appointed nearly 300 'tsars' since 1997, to look at an enormous range of issues. The coalition government is even more enthusiastic than the previous Labour administration, having already appointed more than 100 tsars."

EDIT[2]: According to Wikipedia, John A. Love, appointed Director of the Office of Energy Policy by President Nixon in 1973, was the first to be widely styled as "Energy Czar". The term continued to be used throughout the Nixon and Ford administrations, but fell out of use under the Carter administration when the post of Secretary of Energy was created.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Czar

So I think it's pretty clear where Alistair Maclean took it from.

 
Brock
1387974.  Sat Aug 21, 2021 6:21 am Reply with quote

During the media coverage of the events in Afghanistan, I've heard the phrase "blood and treasure" used on a number of occasions. It's fairly obvious what it means - "lives and money" - but I can't recall having ever heard it before. A quick Google search suggests it may come from a speech by King George III before Parliament on the subject of the rebellion in the American colonies:

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-origin-of-the-phrase-blood-and-treasure

"The object is too important, the spirit of the British nation too high, the resources with which God has blessed her too numerous, to give up so many colonies which she has planted with great industry, nursed with great tenderness, encouraged with many commercial advantages, and protected and defended at much expense of blood and treasure."

Other citations seem to come from the US Civil War, though. Is this a phrase that crossed the Atlantic and has now come back again?

 
Leith
1387976.  Sat Aug 21, 2021 7:37 am Reply with quote

I can take the European usage back a little further.

Here's a report from The Caledonian Mercury, Edinburgh, 21st Sept 1721, which appears to recount a letter from the French Regent to George I:

Quote:
We are advised from Paris, That upon the Meeting of the Council of Regency on the Subject of the Marriage of the Most Christian King with the Infante of Spain, the Duke of Orleans delivered to the King a Letter from his Catholic Majesty, setting forth in general, That he was extreamly well pleased, that in his last two Letters, written with his own Hand to his Most Christian Majesty, he has an Opportunity to signifie, That he always remembring the Sentiments instilled into him by the late King his Grandfather before he left France, and God having blessed him with a Daughter; he thought he could not give a better Proof of the strict Union he always wish'd to maintain, with a Nation wherein he took his first Breath, and which had exhausted its Blood and Treasure for his Sake, than in offering his Daughter to the Most Christian King for a Wife.

Here is an Instance of a Turn given to Affairs, in a small Compass of Time; but, notwithstanding the Union that may be cemented between the two Crowns, by the Ties of the afore-mentioned Marriage, there can be no Reason to doubt, but the Renunciation, for which Great Britain has spent so much Blood and Treasure, will be inviolably observed. Mean time some, in their Remarks on that Subject, wish that the Princess of Spain were not so very young as she is; by reason, it will require several Years for consummating the Marriage.

(any transcription errors mine)

 
Leith
1387979.  Sat Aug 21, 2021 8:02 am Reply with quote

Make that 1614:
https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/The_False_Alarm/E7bglEVf4BoC

Quote:
The late Kingdoms of England and Scotland have contended for it from Age to Age, with too great a Price of Blood and Treasure to be given for the Purchase of any other Blessing; but laid out Parsimoniously, when we consider they have transmitted this to their Posterity.

 
Leith
1387980.  Sat Aug 21, 2021 8:12 am Reply with quote

A study of the usage of the phrase here:
https://qz.com/1059436/blood-and-treasure-the-long-history-of-a-phrase-donald-trump-used-in-describing-the-war-in-afghanistan/

 
Brock
1387986.  Sat Aug 21, 2021 8:46 am Reply with quote

Oh, so Trump popularized it, did he? Thanks for those links.

So basically I was right - we sent it to America and they've sent it back to us. That's why it sounds unfamiliar.

 

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