Will the real maverick please stand up
American political terminology is sometimes lost in translation, and perhaps sometimes lost even in American English.
Both Senator McCain and Governor Palin also routinely describe themselves as mavericks – a term said to have originated from 19th Century Texas statesman Samuel Augustus Maverick, who refused to brand his cattle.
Katz defined maverick as “a quintessentially made-in-America word for someone who often goes his own way.”
But John McCain and Sarah Palin still seem, to most observers, to be branded Republican, unlike Colin Powell, the true maverick, who felt free to follow a different herd. And after being forced to destroy his own reputation by lying publicly for the party cause, who can blame him?
What did Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell do when Dick Cheney and George Tenet fed him bad information and sent him to the United Nations a la Adlai Stevenson? He waited an appropriate amount of time because he’s a gentleman, he packed up Dick Armitage, and left the Administration that stabbed him in the back and left him out there hanging. Now that was Mavericky. Not relying on the broken down Republican Party, Powell took his own counsel this weekend and endorsed Barack Obama for president.
Someone in the alt.usage.english newsgroup remarked that terms like “maverick” and “renegade” seemed to have favourable connotations in the USA, at least among some sections of the population, whereas in other parts of the world they were viewed more negatively, with their implications of disloyalty.
It also casts more doubt on the research findings of Jonathan Haidt, who said that conservatives placed more value on loyalty as a moral value than liberals do (see Notes from underground: The moral high ground — or is it?), because it seems that in the US it is people who like to portray themselves as conservative who have a positive view of terms like “maverick” and “renegade”, where the former means someone with no particular loyalty, and the latter means a turncoat — someone who is positively disloyal.