Subliminal insults? 

Rosie Right

We have heard a lot about bureaucrats and rats recently. Rosie had thought that rats were bad but bureaucrats were hardworking people who tried to keep our systems on-track. As far as the word bureaucrat is concerned, Rosie was wrong.

A look at the Oxford English Dictionary corrected her firmly. According to OED bureaucrat means:

"An official who endeavours to concentrate administrative power in his bureau; a member of a bureaucracy." The first reference OED found was in 1842 and this was a bit neutral, but the second from 1850 reads: "He had … done dirty work for the Dublin Castle bureaucrats …. The tyrants of the earth … the plutocrats and bureaucrats."

So, a bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy?

Rosie went back to the source to find that OED tells us that bureaucracy means: "Government by bureaux, usually officialdom. b. Government officials collectively." This might not be terrible, but here is a sampling of the uses the editors found:

From 1818 "Mr. Commissioner … represented the Bureaucratie, or office tyranny, by which Ireland has been so long governed …."

In 1837 J.S. Mill wrote: "That vast net-work of administrative tyranny … that system of bureaucracy, which leaves no free agent in all France, except the man at Paris who pulls the wires.'"

Carlyle was quoted as saying:'The Continental nuisance called 'Bureaucracy'"

These citations were bad enough, but the smaller New Oxford Dictionary of English published in 1998 makes the disapproval of bureaucrats even plainer. The editors define the word:

"Bureaucrat. Noun. an official in a government department, in particular one perceived as being concerned with procedural correctness at the expense of people's needs."

After due consideration, Rosie believes she would just as soon be called a rat.

Notes from the media:
A reader has sent Rosie the following statement he heard on a Sept. 12 National Public Radio news summary reporting on protests at the World Economic Forum in Australia.

"The protesters believe that globalization benefits only a handful of the world's richest people."

Our reader's comment:
"I presume those idealistic souls will not rest until globalization has benefited all of the world's richest people."

Rosie was dismayed to read the following quote from N.Y. Senate candidate Rick Lazio. It was reported in the Washington Post on Sept.11: "`I would not have shook Fidel Castro's hand,' Lazio said Friday."

Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825), letter (1118 W. Main St., Richmond, Va. 23220), fax (355-9089) or e-mail


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