A Reader Is Surprised At An Unusual Word
October 21, 2010, 05:00 AM
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10/20/10 - A Reader In Raul Grijalva's District Says GOP Sold Out Voters Long Ago

From: Dave Shanken (email him)

Re: James Fulford's blog item Native American Tea Party Of, Yes, 1773

James Fulford wrote of the original Boston Tea Partiers that they "dressed up as Indians for the sake of anonymity, and threw chests of tea in the harbor. I say dressed as Indians, but the Sons of Liberty have been "retconned" into dressing as "native Americans" in many modern histories."

A minor point: I think the term "revisioned" might be more appropriate than "retconned" (which is a new word for me). My source, Wikipedia, indicates that "retconned" applies to fictional material. A difficulty is that "revisioned" refers to changing historiography to suit current ideological dominance, not changing terminology. Perhaps substituting "native American" for "Indian" in your historical discussion should be referred to as "retroactive political correctness".

See Shanken's previous letter here.

James Fulford writes: Thanks, yes, you're right, "retconned" was just my little joke—you can't really do that with history, which was my point. (Retconning, from "retroactive continuity," is the comic book fans word for revising the character's past to allow for changes in the outside world, or for the fact that the character has changed.)  It's a comic book geek word, and I expected many normal readers not to know the word, which is why I added the link. The late William F. Buckley had something of a passion for unusual words [I Am Lapidary But Not Eristic When I Use Big Words, NYT, November 30, 1986] but I think mostly he was wrong.

Many of his favorites have familiar synonyms—an energumen is the same as a fanatic—and his readers might not have a dictionary on hand. But all my readers do—they're reading this on a computer.