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Did you know that the word GERRYMANDER is an animalogy? It’s a combination of Gerry—named after the governor who 1st redrew districts in his favor— and Salamander because of the shape of the newly drawn district on the map.
Word History: In 1812, as governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry signed a bill authorizing the revision of voting districts in his state. Members of Gerry’s party redrew them in order to secure their representation in the state senate, and out of Gerry’s home county, Essex County, they carved an unlikely-looking district with the shape of a salamander. According to one version of the coining of gerrymander, the shape of the district attracted the eye of the painter Gilbert Stuart, who noticed it on a map in a newspaper editor’s office. Stuart decorated the outline of the district with ahead, wings, and claws and then said to the editor, “That will do fora salamander!” “Gerrymander!” came the reply. The image created by Stuart first appeared in the March 26, 1812, edition of theBoston Gazette, where it was accompanied by the following title: The Gerrymander. A New Species of Monster, which appeared in the Essex South District in Jan. 1812. The new word gerrymander caught on instantly—within the same year gerrymander is also recorded as a verb. (Gerry’s name, incidentally, was pronounced with a hard (g) sound, although the word which has immortalized him is now commonly pronounced with a soft (j) sound.) Gerry ran for reelection in 1812, and popular outrage directed at the flagrant use of the technique we now call gerrymandering doubtless played a role in his defeat.
For more, listen to Animalogy Podcast, which is all about the animal-related words and expressions we use every day.
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