Majorism breeds myriad of bluffers' definitions: David Lister finds many meanings for a word of our times
A founder member of The Independent David Lister joined the paper in 1986 as Assistant Home Editor. He became the paper's arts correspondent in 1988 and is now Arts Editor and writes a column each Saturday. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Wednesday 25 August 1993
Majorism, as reported yesterday, will feature for the first time in the dictionary next month, defined by the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as 'the political and economic policies of the British Conservative politician John Major (b 1943) who became Prime Minister in 1990'.
More telling definitions have come from readers, encouraged by a trip to Maastricht for the prize-winning entry.
'Majorism (vulg): An irrational fear of miners (qv Minerism)', hazards James Roberts, of Finchampstead, Berkshire, while John Moore, of Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, finds another cross-reference with 'to govern whilst studying the batting technique of Graham Gooch (see Goochism) and smiling continuously whilst being unpopular and wimpish'.
A number of entries make their point succinctly, if cruelly, with a blank space; but others do detect a definable philosophy; notably Nicholas Murray, of Powys, who offers: 'A form of genteel prevarication in politics coming after a period of shrill vacuity and immediately detectable by certain characteristic circumlocutions, eg 'for some considerable period of time'.'
Kevin Hopkins, from Bristol, suggests: 'The art of tacit leadership without political consensus or personal responsibility.'
Piers Morgan, of Twickenham, includes a date for the end of the premiership in his definition: 'Vainglorious pursuit of ill considered, unpopular and short lived political and economic policies. After John Major, British Prime Minister, 1990-93.'
Paul Vincezi, of East Molesey, Surrey, includes a pronunciation with 'Majorism: (May-jaw-ism) Something you can talk about as much as you like, as long as you don't do anything about it.' The word is analysed in its component parts by Hilary Martin, from Putney, south-west London: 'Majorism (path) morbid love of indecision and false promises. May. Expr. possibility, doubt. Jure (Lat jurare) swear, plead, promise.'
Tony Goss, of Lambeth, south London, is one of several who see Majorism as a clinical condition. He offers: 'Majorism (1) A nervous disease, causing the sufferer to imagine themselves a world statesman whilst everyone else considers them a standing joke. (2) Condition characterised by greying of the skin, inability to make decisions and curious pronunciation of the word 'want'.'
David Townsend, of Worthing, tries a political definition: 'Fin de siecle Conservative governance: a tawdry philosophy in which policies were daily devised, legislated, market tested, rejected and abandoned.'
Supporters of John Major and Majorism have yet to submit any entries.
READERS are invited to devise a better definition than the Oxford dictionary has offered. The best answer, in no more than 20 words, will win a weekend for two in Maastricht. Entries may be sent on a postcard or by fax; they should be marked 'MAJORISM'. Postcards to The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Faxes to 071-956 1435. Entries should arrive by 1 September.
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