“Belittle”, “iffy”, “normalcy” and even “Founding Fathers” – all fall into the category of words invented by US presidents. Paul Dickson, author of Words From the White House, explains the root of the tradition:
Noah Webster early on says this is not the king’s English, this is not the language of the nobilities; it’s the language of the trapper and the farmer and the tradesman. So early on it was almost a patriotic thing. Thomas Jefferson to this day has 114 words credited to him in the Oxford English Dictionary. The most famous, and the one that drove the British nuts, and even up through Fowlers Modern English Usage, which came out in the middle of the 20th century, still bothered by it, was ‘belittle.’
It bothered the British deeply that an American could just come up with a word like this. They thought it was their language and we got to use it. We weren’t supposed to tinker with it.
Katy Steinmetz rounds up some choice bits from the compilation:
lunatic fringe (n.): a minority group of adherents to a political or other movement that is at odds with mainstream beliefs.
Teddy Roosevelt, whom Dickson calls the “Neologist in Chief,” coined this colorful phrase in 1913 when reviewing an art show. “In this recent art exhibition,” he wrote, “the lunatic fringe was fully in evidence, especially in the rooms devoted to the Cubists.” Hey, former Presidents have got to fill their days somehow. Why not take a few shots at Picasso?
Via the Daily Dish.