Appropriately enough, the most popular word on HH this week was Octoberist, defined as “someone who takes a dismal view of things”, and in particular of politics:
No doubt that word proved popular because (a) it’s now October, and (b) well—the politics. But why October? And why, for that matter, Octoberist?
It’s a nice theory but, in answer to a few questions that were raised on Twitter, no this isn’t anything to do with the Octobrist movement of 1920s Soviet Russia. And nor has it anything to do with the so-called “October surprises” that US politicians so neatly pull out of the political bag around this time every election year.
In fact, it’s all a lot more straightforward than that.
Writing in 1796, the Irish author and statesman Edmund Burke called upon the typically dark and dreary weather of October as a metaphor to describe someone with an equally dark and dreary temperament—including a dark and dreary view of the political status quo. In a letter to his friend, William Fitzwilliam, the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam and a former Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Burke wrote of the current political landscape in England and in doing so described “a gentleman” who appears at the “end of October, dripping with the fogs of that humid and uncertain season.”
“This,” he continued, “is what the Octoberist says of the political interests of England.”