On the Hustings

In that little reading list item on the left side of the page — “Daily Kos: 36 Months of Desperately Deadly Delusions” — I found myself using the expression “on the hustings.” Whence does it come?

Brief online researches disclose (for instance, at Word Detective; see the very bottom item of this August 11, 2000 post) that its origins lie in Old Norse (as do those of the House of Brekke, but that’s a longer story). The Oxford English Dictionary has this to say, in an entry that all told runs to more than 1,400 words:

“Old English. hústing, a. Old Norse. hús-thing, house-assembly, a council held by a king, earl, or other leader, and attended by his immediate followers, retainers, etc., in distinction from the ordinary thing or general assembly of the people.”

The OED entry explains that the word evolved over the centuries in English (and England), with meanings including a court of appeals and London’s supreme court; the area in London’s Guildhall inwhich the court was held; the platform in the Guildhall in which London’s mayor and aldermen met; and finally, getting us to the modern political campaign meeting, a platform upon which candidates for Parliament would appear before voters.

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