The cliché: In December, many on the left feared that the newly elected Republican majority in the House of Representatives might prove uncompromising on issues from the Bush tax cuts to the debt ceiling. While some heralded an era of bipartisanship in the immediate wake of the midterm elections, The New Republic's Jonathan Chait warned last November that the Republicans had no stake in achieving success through compromise. Presciently, he wrote, "[E]ven if Republican intransigence produces an outcome that is regarded as bad by Republicans, it will redound to the party's benefit." As both parties dug their trenches for the debt ceiling debate, commentators set aside common synonyms ("uncompromising" for instance) and seized on "Republican intransigence" or "GOP intransigence" or "Tea Party intransigence" as the favored descriptor for the House majority. As inflexibility turned debt ceiling negotiations into a crisis, "intransigence" went viral.
- Clive Crook entitled his Monday Financial Times column: "To the Intransigent Go the Spoils."
- Ewan MacAskill entitled his Monday Guardian column: "Tea Party Intransigence Takes America to the Brink."
- American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner writes in Politico: "If he keeps compromising and rewards GOP intransigence to demonstrate that he is 'the only grown-up in the room,' the Republicans win politically and ideologically."
- Harold Meyerson writes in The Washington Post: "The GOP's intransigence in the face of one concession after another from the president... has certainly given them more substantive victories than virtually anyone anticipated."
Where it's from: Just like stubbornness itself, this word has been around for awhile. Transigentem in Latin means "to come to an agreement." The root took hold in later romance languages and probably made its way to English by way of French. It is often used to describe politics. Just read some of the books titles in which the word appears: The Intransigent Radical Movement: An Attempt at Democratic Solutions for Argentina, or Intransigent Oligarchs and Political Violence: El Salvador in 1972 and 1932. This political implication, too, has its origins in romance languages as, apparently, an extremist republican political party (note the lower case "r") of 19th century Spain titled themselves los intransigentes, or "not coming to an agreement."
"Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous, and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.