HUSTINGS. We’ve been seeing quite a bit of the word in this season of fervid campaigning, clouded, in recent days, by a haze that doesn’t seem to have dampened rally turnouts. It’s also a word that has found its way in three of my students’ vocabulary books.
“Hustings,” they write, noting it’s a noun, and that it is spelled the same in plural. Then, they write its meaning:
• a meeting at which candidates in an election address potential voters.
• the campaigning associated with an election: a formidable political operator at his best on the hustings.
Etymologically, hustings comes from an Old Norse word, hústhing (“household assembly held by a leader”) from hús (house) + thing (assembly, parliament)—Norse being the Norwegian language, especially in its medieval form. The Old English take on the word transformed it to husting (deliberative assembly, council).
But we didn’t just stop at hustings. I shared with them its American equivalent:
[as modifier] chiefly North American
engaged in or involving political campaigning: he is an inspiring stump speaker.
The word refers to the use of a tree stump, from which an orator would speak. Used as a verb, it means to travel around (a district) making political speeches. Oxford offers two examples:
(i) [ with object ] there is no chance that he will be well enough to stump the country.
(ii) [ no object ] the two men had come to the city to stump for the presidential candidate.
There’s also a phrase, an informal one: “on the stump.” And here’s an example from that very part of the world from where the word usage originated:
In public, Mrs. Clinton often comes across as inauthentic, charmless and brittle, and she is poor on the stump.
Clinton, Trump and the Politics of Self-Destruction
By Peter Wehner
The New York Times, September 3, 2015