Saturday, September 10, 2005
Yesterday on the radio I heard one of Jackson's local acolytes echo the master's strictures against refugee, with a new twist. He claimed that refugee was a diminutive.
Perhaps he was thinking of names like Bobby, Eddie, Jimmy, or Joey. Some authorities, e.g. Jespersen in Growth and Structure of the English Language § 13, classify these as diminutives. Or Brownie, Bush's affectionate nickname for the dolt he appointed to be head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Of all the thoughtless utterances that have escaped the fence of Bush's teeth, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" has to qualify as among the most thoughtless.
But refugee is not a diminutive. Its suffix is due to its origin in a French past participle.