In this year of unbridled disagreement, bordering on hatred for each other, the Democrats and Republicans are both hurting their respective parties and their images with the general public across the country. And even though we can go back in history and read stories of outrage throughout our political history, I don’t know that we have ever had a time when things were so out of control – or name calling so prevalent.
Into this confrontation, an old word has made its way back into our vocabulary, although few people are familiar with it – and that word is the title of the post tonight – snollygosters! So what is the origin of the word? And what does it mean?
Well, for starters, the etymology of the word (the origin and background of the word) seem to indicate that “snollygoster” is originally from the mid 1800’s and meant a quick moving spirit – presumably evil or bad. Throughout the years, the meaning has changed some and now refers to shrewd, unprincipled people. This also encompasses people who use unethical means to get to the top and are unqualified for the position that they hold. Most of the time, as you can well imagine, the reference is to politicians – on both sides of the aisle – and we all know the accusations that each side is currently making about the other.
Former President Truman was known to use the term in reference to President Eisenhower and how Eisenhower had given into snollygosters in Congress. But the first use of the term seems to be back in 1846 and was also describing the behavior of politicians – in Georgia. Clearly, the term has never had a favorable meaning and fell out of disuse in the late 20th century.
Several members of the press and media developed a fondness for using the word as a descriptor of various people in government, but in 2003, Merriam Webster actually removed “snollygoster” from its abridged dictionary. It seems that it didn’t meet the threshold of usage to continue to be viable as a common word in the English language. However, the trend toward obscurity reversed itself and in 2017, only two years ago, Merriam Webster returned the word to our modern dictionary, probably largely due to the usage by Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and several other well known media celebrities.
Certainly neither of our political parties owns the rights to or has a monopoly on the use of the word – and both sides accuse the other of the negative behaviors associated with being a snollygoster. Now more than ever we need to find common ground, roll back this negative behavior and come to our senses as a nation.
So, regardless of which side of the political aisle each of us supports, we are setting a bad example for our children and the world. All eyes are on us and we aren’t doing so well. I don’t have to get into specifics, and it is certainly beyond the scope or intent of this blog to take sides in a political disagreement, but as a country we can do better.
I know that it is a long way from where we are, but Paul, John and the other apostles learned about love from Jesus. In fact, Paul is quick to let us know that love is stronger than knowledge and while John speaks about truth, he also tells us that love is the answer. In fact, one of John’s verses tells us the words of Jesus on this subject. John, in his Gospel, repeats the words of Jesus, when he lets us know in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Wouldn’t we be far better off recognizing that we are all part of the same body? Even though it is not from the Bible, an old Indian proverb even states that the right wing and the left wing belong to the same bird… wise words to live by.
My encouragement this evening is that there is still hope for us, especially if we lose this group think mentality. Hatred and divisiveness are not the answer. My prayer is that, with God’s help, we can all roll back our sub standard behaviors and become more respectful of one another. Maybe, if and when we are successful, Merriam Webster can once again remove “snollygoster” from our vocabulary. And then, just maybe, we can get on the road to loving one another well. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…