Wednesday, 10 April 2013


All this talk of Thatcherism got me wondering. So I went to the OED and searched for the names of post-war Prime Ministers. Here are the results. Definitions are taken from the OED.

David Cameron

Nothing yet. Although cameroon is pretty popular in the papers.

Gordon Brown

Nothing. Although Brownite used to be everywhere.

Tony Blair

Blairism, Blairist, Blairite. The OED's etymology helpfully explains "the name of Anthony Charles Lynton (‘Tony’) Blair (b. 1953)".

John Major

Majorism, Majorite

Margaret Thatcher

Handbag (verb) To batter with a handbag. Only fig., to subject to a forthright verbal assault or to strident criticism; to coerce in this way. Cf. sandbag Orig. and predominantly with reference to Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister 1979–1990 [This one was invented by The Economist]
Leaderene Orig., a jocular or ironic name for Margaret Thatcher while Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister; hence gen., any female leader, esp. a formidable one.

Thatcher's Britain n. (also Mrs. Thatcher's Britain) Britain under the premiership of Mrs. Thatcher; (the condition of) British society as an alleged result of policies implemented by her governments. Freq. with negative connotations.

Thatcher's Child n. a person for whom the premiership and policies of Margaret Thatcher are regarded as formative influences



Wet [specific meaning] n. A ‘wet’ person; spec. a politician with liberal or middle-of-the-road views on controversial issues (often applied to members of the Conservative Party opposed to the monetarist policies of Margaret Thatcher).

James Callaghan


Harold Wilson


Edward Heath


Alec Douglas-Home


Harold Macmillan

Wind c. spec. in phr. wind (also winds) of change. Harold Macmillan (Lord Stockton) delivered his celebrated ‘wind of change’ address to the South African parliament in Cape Town on 3 Feb. 1960 (see quot.). Our records show a marked increase in the frequency of the phrase after this date.

Anthony Eden

Anthony Eden A black Homburg hat of the type often worn by Sir Anthony Eden (later Lord Avon).

Clement Attlee


Winston Churchill

I wrote a whole chapter of The Etymologicon on this.  

Anthony Eden being supported by Anthony Eden

1 comment: