Tag Archives: stall tactic

Filibuster – the word’s origin

I must admit that I don’t always listen to National Public Radio. (NPR)  But, on a recent trip to Iowa, NPR seemed like a good choice on my van’s satellite radio.

Somewhere along my route, as I was surveying the scenery of eastern Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa the term filibuster was mentioned.  The history of the word is very interesting.

Most of us know the term filibuster as it relates to our government and its officials.  It is a tactic sometimes used to defeat a measure by raising questions (usually frivolous) of order, calls of the house, motions to adjourn, etc.  All this is done in an attempt to tire out the opposition or as a stall tactic.  It is called “talking out a bill.

Many feel the term filibuster comes from the Spanish word filibote.  A filibote is a sailing ship. The Spanish associated the work with buccaneers.  It may be a distortion of the word flyboat in English.

The English also anglicized a Dutch word, “vrijbutie”, into the term freeloader.  This is a person who goes in search of plunder.  The word came to be associated with pirate.

The French got into the act by using the word for the same meaning. As far back as the 1800s Americans popularized the word filibuster too.  This was in reference to the activities of famous pirates operating in Latin America and the Caribbean.

I will leave it to you to make your own jokes about politician and pirates, or the similarity therein.