Monday, 22 June 2009

Psephological = pretentious political phraseology

Amber Taylor’s word of the day is one I’ve never used and hardly ever encountered. You’d think that was odd, since “psephology” is another name for my field of research, but I doubt most political behavior scholars could define (or even pronounce) the term. From a position of ignorance, I’d probably think it referred to reading bumps on people’s heads or something. (A Google News search suggests the term is reasonably common in India of all places, and gets some play in Britain and Ireland, but is rare elsewhere.)

In short: don’t expect me to order new business cards describing me as a psephologist any time soon.

1 comment:

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It’s a British term, well understood there. The term was invented in the early 1950s by RB McCallum (see this 1954 discussion in Parliamentary Affairs: as kind of a joke to refer to the statistics of elections. “Psephos” is “pebble”, which is what the Athenians voted with.

It’s always used in discussions of the founder of the subject in the UK, David Butler. See his wikipedia page: Or Simon Jackman’s blog:

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