Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I saw the word "stoush" for the first time today. It showed up in an article about plans for Lance Armstrong to return to professional bike racing in Europe. He plans to participate in the Italian national race, the Giro d'Italia, but may sit out the Tour de France. There's been plenty of reaction in the cycling press. The piece in which my word appears discusses Armstrong's relationship with the current Italian champion Filippo Simeoni, one of many in Europe who believe Armstrong used drugs to win his seven TdeF titles though never caught doing it. Here's an extract:
When asked whether there would be any uneasiness riding alongside Armstrong Simeoni replied, "Well, I certainly wouldn't ride with a spirit of revenge; I personally do not feel bitterness, hatred or revenge." At the time of their stoush in France four years ago, long-time Armstrong associate Michele Ferrari was on trial after being accused of sporting fraud and improper exercise of the profession of pharmacy. Simeoni was one of the main witnesses in the case and the emotions of the case spilled out onto proceedings on the road. Initially sentenced to one year of imprisonment, Ferrari was later acquitted in the second degree by the Court of Appeals of Bologna.
Here's a definition:
There was a time when “stoush” (meaning “fight”) was a very common piece of Aussie slang.

But does anyone still say "stoush"?
Stoush was both a noun and a verb: to stoush someone was to bash them or fight them, while a fight was called a stoush. It probably had its highest currency in the late 19th early 20th centuries. In typical Aussie fashion the Great War of 1914-18 was called “the big stoush”. The earliest citation is from a report in the Bulletin in 1893. The source of the word remains a mystery, but the English Dialect Dictionary records a somewhat similar word “stashie” meaning “uproar” or “quarrel”. So stoush may have started life as an English dialect word that immigrated, changed, and then lived on here while it died out back in the British Isles.
I thought of my new word in connection with the stoush that McCain and Palin have been laying on (subject of my last two posts). Their street-fight approach to the campaign came back to mind on reading an article about word scientist James W. Pennebaker. He participates in a group blog where the language used by the candidates for president and VP is analyzed and has just done a brief summary of findings so far. As you'd expect, the analysis shows McCain to be more impulsive and aggressive, Obama more reflective and rational. (As an aside, it's worth noting that the blog has an analysis of Sarah Palin's speeches and interviews which suggests she's a liar.)

And I thought of it again on reading Steven Pearlstein's current column. In it, he attacks the financial managers whose actions precipitated the economic meltdown. He complains about their failure to own up to their responsibility for these actions and says there's a way in which they broadcast their guilt to the world: "Court reporters will tell you they can always tell the innocent from the guilty on these kinds of perp walks, and the Wall Street crowd yesterday looked particularly guilty, unable even to conjure up a soothing word to a nation fretting over its shrunken 401(k)s, or a simple thank you to taxpayers for having saved their bacon. Their silence and invisibility throughout this crisis attests to the moral and political bankruptcy of a financial elite that is the perfect match for the financial bankruptcy they have now visited upon their investors, their creditors and their customers."

It's Pearlstein who's making a stoush in this case but that's not his word for the day. The piece closes with this: "There's a word that captures the instinct to take bold moves in the midst of a national crisis -- it's called leadership. We've seen quite a bit of it these past few weeks from public officials like Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, Sheila Bair, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, John Boehner -- even George Bush. Wall Street, by contrast, has served up a nothing sandwich, a lack of leadership that's been stunning."

1 comment:

GobberGo said...

It's great that you have all this time on your hands for blogging.