'Barnstorming' and 'on the stump' with the candidates for president

For many months now politicians have been running for the highest office in the land -- President of the United States. On Nov. 4, the country will vote to decide who will be the next President.

Until then the major candidates, President Carter, Ronald Reagan, and John Anderson will be on the stump, barnstorming,m and making whistle-stopm tours.

On the stump, barnstorming,m and making whistle stopsm are popular political sayings. We use these sayings over and over, and sometimes we forget their original meanings.

For instance, on the stumpm means to campaign or to go out and shake hands with workers and make political speeches in places like shopping malls and halls to win votes. Originally it meant to speak from the stump of a tree. In Colonial times a tree stump was used as a platform for sermons and other public speeches. The stumps disappeared, but the saying stays with us.

Barnstormingm was not always a political term. In the late 1800s it referred to theater companies touring the United States, where they probably performed in barns. Now it means to make a campaign tour.

Whistle stopm is a much more recent term than stumpingm or barnstorming.m

President Harry Truman told a gathering at the Toledo, Ohio, railroad station in 1948 that before the presidential campaign of that year was over "I expect to visit every whistle stop in the United States." It was President Truman's way of saying he was going to cover a lot of territory, even small out-of-the-way places, to greet voters. A whistle stop is such a small place on a railroad line that the trains stop there only on request.

Political campaigns sometimes produce mavericks.m As a Republican Party member who now has chosen to stand as an "independent," John Anderson is known as a maverick. A maverick is someone who does not go along with a group or political party, but strays off on a separate course. Other ways of describing a maverick are "rebel" and "loner."

Maverick was named after S. A. Maverick, a Texas cattle owner who lived more than 100 years ago and who didn't brand his cattle. Webster's dictionary defines maverick as "an unbranded animal; a calf parted from his mother; one who breaks away from group conformity and forges a new course."

Candidates who are ahead of the field, such as President Jimmy Carter for the Democratic Party and Ronald Reagan, who was recently chosen at the Republican convention, are called front-runners.m If some unexpected person suddenly comes into view and presents a strong challenge, we call that candidate a dark horse.m The term came into common usage about 100 years ago.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.