We'll look this week at some words concerning governmental rule, power, and functions – or malfunctions.
thalassocracy – maritime supremacy; command of the seas (naval power or commercial power) (thalassocrat)
- J. M. Roberts, The New History of the World
malversation – corruption by one in public office or a position of trust.
[French, from Latin male badly + versari behave]
Though the term applies to such corruption in any form (Emerson and E. Burke quotes below), it is typically used for corrupt taking of funds (quote 3); indeed, indeed Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (quote 5) seems to limit it to that meaning.
And be it enacted, that after the arrival of any ship transporting negroes, the said protector of negroes is hereby authorized and required to examine the state of the ship and the said negroes; and upon a sufficient proof of any cruelty to the negroes, or any other malversation of the said captain, or any of his officers, the protector shall impose a fine on him or them.
– Edmund Burke, Sketch of a Negro Code, 1792, directed to one of the King's advisors (ellipses not shown)
The assassination of Sadat brings an end to an era marked by the growth of the black market, currency speculation and the malversation of public funds.
– UNESCO Courier, Oct., 1992
Removal from an office ... seems to be the utmost penalty to which any committee-man is liable, for any fault, except direct malversation, or embezzlement, either of the public money, or of that of the company, and the fear of that punishment can never be a motive of sufficient weight to force a continual and careful attention to a business, to which he has no other interest to attend."
– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
Is "vers" perhaps closer to the idea of turning, than behaving? Thus a bad turn.
Cf. adverse, adversary, animadversion, averse, verse, version...
The above etymology comes from Compact OED. Nonetheless, Robert, I would agree with you: my own reaction is that you are right and COED is mistaken. But I'm no Latinist. Can others chime in?
capitation – a tax levied on the basis of a fixed amount per person; also, a payment or fee of a fixed amount per person
Note: can be either a charge to a person, or a payment made to or for him.
– Marian Harrison, Western People, Ireland - Jan 26, 2005
No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census …
– U.S. Constitution
[MW's law dictionary, with this example, misleads by omitting the 'unless' clause.]
immobilism – extreme political resistance to change (whether due to conservative philosophy, self-interest, tactical delay, gridlock, or dithering)
kleptocracy – a government of widespread greed and corruption ['government of thieves']
The few on-line dictionaries defining immobilism speak of being 'conservative' or 'reactionary'. But I suggest, per the usage examples, as below, that it apples to other forms of change-resistance.
– George Walden, New Statesman, June 27, 1997 [speaking of attitudes in UK]
[gridlock] Stockwin argues sectionalism, compounded by entrenched, clientelist relationships among bureaucrats, politicians, and businesses, has produced policy immobilism.
– Kim Eric Bettcher, Pacific Affairs, Summer 2000 [speaking of Japan]
[self-interest] [After overthrow of the Congo dictatorship] there was a general sigh of relief and unbridled enthusiasm about the prospects for democratic political dispensation after thirty-two years of despotism, kleptocracy, and immobilism.
– Paul S. Orogun, World Affairs, Summer, 2002
[tactical delay] As one of Arafat's close associates explained, what was needed was to gain time. One of [the Arab regimes] was bound to fall, which would alter the balance of power. It was this strategy of "movement within immobilism," as it was called with a straight face, that gained the day at the 12th Palestine National Council, humorously dubbed "the conference of the yes-no." Arafat declared: "We can't afford to say no to everything. We can't say yes to everything either. So we have to learn to say 'yes, but', and 'no, but' . . . ."
– Eric Rouleau, Foreign Affairs, Fall 1983
[dithering] But in an incredibly protracted case of policy immobilism, Japanese policymakers dawdled and allowed the problems to get progressively more debilitating.
– Masaru Kaneko, Electronic Journal Of Contemporary Japanese Studies, Aug. 29, 2001
The s in today's word is pronounced zh as in azure or Zsa Zsa; it would be wrong to pronounce the ending like 'prison'. The word has two entirely different senses.
misprision – neglect or malperformance in office (not implying corruption)
also, failure to report treason or felony; also, sedition
[from mes- wrongly; + prendre to take, seize]
– David Nicholson-Lord, New Statesman, March 6, 2000
Henry VIII was assured by advisers in 1527 that he would soon be able to put away his wife Katherine. But he had to wait till 1533 to marry Anne Boleyn; the pesky octogenarian Archbishop of Canterbury, Warham, went on and on, only finally succumbing when delivered a trumped up charge of misprision of treason.
– Christopher Howse, The Telegraph, Feb. 24, 2005
[concept of mis- wrongly + prize]
– David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest: A Novel
Today's word is extraordinarily rare, but how can I pass up the rare opportunity to use a word beginning with pt? Our quote comes from a satire that is well worth reading in full, at the link.
ptochocracy – government by the poor
[The counterpart word is much more common: plutocracy - government by the wealthy class.]
And this was, ultimately, what was most surprising about the whole affair: initial disbelief had become general derision had turned to a period of suspicion had evolved into, finally, a real sense of rage that the beggars no longer felt it their duty to occupy their usual positions in doorways, beneath bridges, at the rear of restaurants pleading for scraps, etcetera. Some people, for example, pointed out that because there was no longer anyone worse-off to feel superior to, previously undealt-with feelings of worthlessness were wont to resurface. Many parents, meanwhile, bemoaned the lack of opportunities for wagging a finger at a beggar-family in order to warn their own children. Lastly there were the political parties to consider.
Should Beggars Be Choosers? the quality papers enquired; and, what exactly was the Beggars Belief? Had society, the tabloids wondered, previously only been Paupering Over The Cracks?
Then, in a celebrated editorial, our leading newspaper of record declared that, in such unusual circumstances, with the homeless and vagrant setting the agenda, a ptochocracy, or rule by beggars, could not be regarded as entirely out of the question. Soon the word was on everybody’s lips, enunciated of course with varying degrees of success.
- Paul Lenehan, Irish Times, Dec. 16, 2000 (excerpted; full text here)