The vocabulary of standoff
Washington is at loggerheads and the GOP isn't sure of its 'ask.'
I have to get something out of this: maybe just an understanding of what loggerheads really are.Skip to next paragraph
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The United States may be calming down to something like normal after the debt-ceiling debacle, which The Economist called the political equivalent of the Battle of the Somme: "[G]reat damage has been done, but barely any ground gained."
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It almost sounds like the name of a pub, doesn't it? "Meet me at Lagerheads." But in the 1580s, calling someone a "loggerhead" was a way of saying "stupid person" or "blockhead," according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Logger was a dialectal term for "heavy block of wood," and head was a word meaning, well, "head."
During the next century, loggerhead had a number of meanings: a thick-headed iron tool, a kind of cannon shot, and a type of turtle. During the 1670s, loggerheads had come to refer to fighting or fisticuffs, though the dictionary isn't quite clear on the idea behind it: "[P]erhaps it suggests the heavy tools used as weapons." The phrase at loggerheads, meaning, more genteelly perhaps, "in disagreement," rather than "throwing punches," likewise dates back to the 1670s.
Maybe there's comfort to be taken in the idea that being "at loggerheads" at least implies some engagement rather than complete standoff, but how much?