Monday, August 08, 2005

Today's Word: Chivy

Today's word is one of strategy and cunning!

It's not a small onion!

To chivy something is to slyly maneuver it through persistent, petty attacks. It is a subtle art used to gain by indirect means rather than by overt aggression!

Chivying comes to us from Scotland, where the word means 'to doggedly pursue'. It comes from a phrase that is drawn from the title of a ballad.

In medieval times a 'chase' was a plot of land that was used as a hunting ground.

In the mid 1400's a ballad was penned that became one of the most famed and admired ballads among the Scottish at the time. It tells the history of the Battle of Otterburn. The English Earl of Northumberland lead a hunting party into an area on the English-Scottish border - on the Scottish side known as 'Chevy Chase'. Chevy Chase was a Scottish game preserve and the Scottish Earl Douglas of Otterburn had forbidden the hunt. The illicit hunting party sparked a battle that would end with barely more than one hundred survivors, and thousands of casualties. The Scottish were victorious.

The ballad survived well into the 1600's and from it the term 'chevy chase' was borne; indicating a specific style of hunt where the game is ferreted out by a deft series of maneuvers.

'Chivy' is the resulting linguistic descendant.

An affluent area of Maryland is named for that same Scottish battlefield, and it is supposed that actor Chevy Chase (born "Cornelius Crane Chase") was given the nickname 'Chevy' by his grandmother in reference to this prominent suburb.

The act of chivying is still around today! You'll notice it in subtle political maneuvers. Those slight digs, those underhanded yet persistent rumors - they add up! It is a tactic of subtlety that undermines an opponent's validity by attaching petty yet effective taints to their reputation. It is a slow and steady piling-on of straws that are effective cumulatively, and yet seem absurd to protest. There is no doubt that chivying tactics are effective, but the integrity of those who use them should be carefully examined!



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