'Congressman', etc

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halcombe

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Apr 20, 2002, 4:49:07 PM4/20/02
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How did members of the US House of Representatives come to be known
colloquially as 'Congressmen'?

Why not 'Representatives' - that is their formal title, after all. Is
there a chance of confusion with members of the lower houses of state
legislatures? I haven't checked them all, but I have the impression
that most of them are called 'Assemblyman'. (In case of confusion, one
might have used the expedient applied to a member of an upper house,
who is 'Senator X', if a member of the US Senate, or 'State Senator
X', otherwise.)

It seems anomalous that the House should, as it were, have
appropriated an expression which, on its face, is equally applicable
to both Houses of Congress. Not to mention, confusing to the
uninitiated.

'Congressman' also brings otherwise unnecessary gender problems. I
believe that female members of the House are now, as they always have
been, called 'Congresswoman'. But, would one use 'Congressmen' to
refer to a group including members of both sexes? Or
'Congresspersons'?

And, while on the subject, why is their no quick way to refer to the
body to which they belong? For the upper house, no problem: 'the
Senate' does the job.

But for the lower, 'the House' on its own doesn't seem to cut it. One
needs (at least for the first reference) to contextualise this bare
expression. ('On the Hill today, the House voted...').

In Britain, a reference to 'the Commons' is in most contexts
sufficient to identify the lower house of the UK Parliament. (No
confusion is possible with the recently established Scottish
Parliament or Welsh Assembly.) I'm not sure how Canada (which also has
a House of Commons) or Australia (a House of Representatives), which
have Provincial and State legislatures respectively, deal with the
problem.

Richard Fontana

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Apr 20, 2002, 5:22:58 PM4/20/02
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On 20 Apr 2002, halcombe wrote:

> How did members of the US House of Representatives come to be known
> colloquially as 'Congressmen'?
>
> Why not 'Representatives' - that is their formal title, after all. Is
> there a chance of confusion with members of the lower houses of state
> legislatures? I haven't checked them all, but I have the impression
> that most of them are called 'Assemblyman'. (In case of confusion, one
> might have used the expedient applied to a member of an upper house,
> who is 'Senator X', if a member of the US Senate, or 'State Senator
> X', otherwise.)
>
> It seems anomalous that the House should, as it were, have
> appropriated an expression which, on its face, is equally applicable
> to both Houses of Congress. Not to mention, confusing to the
> uninitiated.

How do you know it was the members of the House of Reps who are
responsible for this? It could be some other source -- the press, the
general public, etc.

> And, while on the subject, why is their no quick way to refer to the
> body to which they belong? For the upper house, no problem: 'the
> Senate' does the job.
>
> But for the lower, 'the House' on its own doesn't seem to cut it. One
> needs (at least for the first reference) to contextualise this bare
> expression. ('On the Hill today, the House voted...').

In practice, "the House" is used to mean "the House of
Representatives".


RockyRoad

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Apr 20, 2002, 10:02:29 PM4/20/02
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In article <d7fa3848.02042...@posting.google.com>,
halc...@subdimension.com (halcombe) wrote:

I'm not sure how Canada (which also has
> a House of Commons) or Australia (a House of Representatives), which
> have Provincial and State legislatures respectively, deal with the
> problem.

In Australia the lower house seems to get shortened to the "House of
Reps".

I think the State Governemt lower house is called the Legislative
Assembly, which is even more of a mouthful.

--
Rocky Road - in Oz

Robert Bannister

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Apr 20, 2002, 10:18:05 PM4/20/02
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RockyRoad wrote:

Note the strong secondary stress on the 'lat' of Legislative, as opposed
to BrE powerful first syllable stress.


--
Rob Bannister

Ed Williams

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Apr 21, 2002, 2:05:49 PM4/21/02
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halcombe wrote:

>
> In Britain, a reference to 'the Commons' is in most contexts
> sufficient to identify the lower house of the UK Parliament. (No
> confusion is possible with the recently established Scottish
> Parliament or Welsh Assembly.) I'm not sure how Canada (which also has
> a House of Commons) or Australia (a House of Representatives), which
> have Provincial and State legislatures respectively, deal with the
> problem.
>

Just idle curiosity on my part, but how does the British press (and
public for that matter) refer to the houses as a listed pair (when not
referring to 'Parliament' as a whole?) If the reference 'the Commons'
refers to The House of Commons, then how, colloquially, is The House of
Lords shortened?

In the US, the phrases "house" and "senate" are clearly understood and
the overall term "Congress" is usually understood to mean the two
together. What I find fun sometimes is the occasional reference to
"Congress and The Senate" !! Although I suppose that for some folks
that simply follows the whole "congressman / senator" terminology.

To the original question/comment - I've found that the term
"congressman" can refer to either a Representative or a Senator
depending on the local parlance of different areas in the US. Back in
New England where I grew up, for some reason we always talked about
"congressmen and senators." When I lived near Wasington, DC, you tended
to hear people refer to the Representatives as just that. Out here in
the western US, everyone seems to speak just of "congressmen" in the
broad term. What's odd around here, however, is that when you hear
people addressing the politicians directly, you hear "Mr or Ms So and
So" for Representatives and "Senator" for Senators. Different
traditions, I suppose. Personnaly, I find using the term
"Representative" all the time to be a little too officious and that
"congressman" (or "-woman") just feels a little more neighborly.


Simon R. Hughes

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Apr 21, 2002, 6:01:35 PM4/21/02
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Thus Spake Ed Williams:

>
> halcombe wrote:
>
> >
> > In Britain, a reference to 'the Commons' is in most contexts
> > sufficient to identify the lower house of the UK Parliament. (No
> > confusion is possible with the recently established Scottish
> > Parliament or Welsh Assembly.) I'm not sure how Canada (which also has
> > a House of Commons) or Australia (a House of Representatives), which
> > have Provincial and State legislatures respectively, deal with the
> > problem.
> >
>
> Just idle curiosity on my part, but how does the British press (and
> public for that matter) refer to the houses as a listed pair (when not
> referring to 'Parliament' as a whole?)

"The Houses of Parliament". More common is "Parliament", however.

> If the reference 'the Commons'
> refers to The House of Commons, then how, colloquially, is The House of
> Lords shortened?

"The Lords".

--
Simon R. Hughes

Robert Bannister

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Apr 21, 2002, 8:08:26 PM4/21/02
to
Ed Williams wrote:

And, of course, many Congressmen indulge in congress more than they do in
representation.


--
Rob Bannister

John Varela

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Apr 21, 2002, 9:00:43 PM4/21/02
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On Sat, 20 Apr 2002 20:49:07 UTC, halc...@subdimension.com (halcombe)
wrote:

> How did members of the US House of Representatives come to be known
> colloquially as 'Congressmen'?

M-W dates the term to 1780, so it appears to have originated in the
Continental Congress of revolutionary days, which was a unicameral body.
That the term persisted is unsurprising.

As to why the term attached itself to the House rather than the Senate, I
can make a guess. Being a Senator is perceived as more prestigious than
being a Representative. I speculate, therefore, that the Senators would
insist on being called "Senator" while the Representatives didn't care.

--
John Varela

Jonathan Jones

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Apr 23, 2002, 3:35:26 AM4/23/02
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Robert Bannister <rob...@it.net.au> writes:

-> Note the strong secondary stress on the 'lat' of Legislative, as opposed
-> to BrE powerful first syllable stress.

How can you people spit out so many syllables in a row without accents?

Sheesh,
-Jon J.

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