The Vocabularist: The roots of the filibuster


‘Korean MPs claim to have broken the record for filibustering – speaking in relays for 192 hours in a failed bid to defeat an anti-terror bill.

The Koreans quoted chunks of “1984” in their orations. British parliamentarians have strung out proceedings talking about their childhood drinking-mugs, and breaking down government statistics into prime numbers.

Where does “filibuster” come from? It used to mean bandit, then pirate – a version of the Dutch vrijbuiter meaning something like “free stealer”. The first part is the same as our “free”, the second related to “booty”.’

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