Monday, October 13, 2008

Etymology of "Maverick"

As I have already opined, "maverick," like all political cliches, should be made into a profanity and outlawed. However, it is at least worth wondering where the word comes from, and what its original meaning is, compared to the meaning that McCain-Palin want it to mean and apply to themselves.

According to this article in the New York Times, here's the history:

In the 1800s, Samuel Augustus Maverick went to Texas and became known for not branding his cattle. He was more interested in keeping track of the land he owned than the livestock on it, Ms. Maverick said; unbranded cattle, then, were called “Maverick’s.” The name came to mean anyone who didn’t bear another’s brand.

Ok, so McCain wants to see himself as one without a brand. Fair enough. But, as it turns out, the Maverick family, in America since the 1600s, has had a fairly long association with liberal and progressive politics. From the article:
“I’m just enraged that McCain calls himself a maverick,” said Terrellita Maverick, 82, a San Antonio native who proudly carries the name of a family that has been known for its progressive politics since the 1600s, when an early ancestor in Boston got into trouble with the law over his agitation for the rights of indentured servants.
Sam Maverick’s grandson, Fontaine Maury Maverick, was a two-term congressman and a mayor of San Antonio who lost his mayoral re-election bid when conservatives labeled him a Communist. He served in the Roosevelt administration on the Smaller War Plants Corporation and is best known for another coinage. He came up with the term “gobbledygook” in frustration at the convoluted language of bureaucrats.

This Maverick’s son, Maury Jr., was a firebrand civil libertarian and lawyer who defended draft resisters, atheists and others scorned by society. He served in the Texas Legislature during the McCarthy era and wrote fiery columns for The San Antonio Express-News. His final column, published on Feb. 2, 2003, just after he died at 82, was an attack on the coming war in Iraq.

Terrellita Maverick, sister of Maury Jr., is a member emeritus of the board of the San Antonio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas....“He’s a Republican,” she said. “He’s branded.”

I added the hyperlinks. Just so I'm not cherrypicking, there aren't also a bunch of conservative Republican Mavericks in history, here's wikipedia's page on the term "maverick".

Thanks to Da for the tipoff on the article.

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