Hustings: A place where political speeches are made; more generally, the campaign trail. plural and singular. From Old English husting, “meeting, court”; adapted from Old Norse hus-thing, “house assembly.” A related word, Althing, is the name of Iceland’s general assembly. (This thing is analogous to the Latin legal term res: an issue or matter.)
“Hustings” is a word that appears only during political seasons in the US, and then infrequently: the synonym “stump,” which can also be a verb, often replaces it. The late language maven William Safire, in Safire’s Political Dictionary, said “hustings” was “archaic” and “often used semihumorously.”
One place “hustings” is taken seriously is the Wall Street Journal, where the word has appeared five times in the last two months. “Obama Hits Hustings on His Own” was the headline on an August 31 story.
In a September 18 blog post about the Romney campaign, “Time for an Intervention,” WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan addressed the candidate directly:
Wake this election up. Wade into the crowd, wade into the fray, hold a hell of a rally in an American city—don’t they count anymore? A big, dense city with skyscrapers like canyons, crowds and placards, and yelling. All of our campaigning now is in bland suburbs and tired hustings.
“Hustings” is used differently in the UK and Commonwealth countries (and ex-Commonwealth nations such as India), where it means the proceedings at a parliamentary election. It often appears as a modifier: “a hustings event.” The word has been used in many contexts since it first appeared in print in 1030; the modern British sense, according to the OED, comes from the term for the temporary platform from which Parliamentary candidates were nominated.
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