No, I’m not advocating one of anything. 😉 I just read the history of the word in my son’s vocab book and thought I’d share.
Do you already know the history of this one? I think I’ve probably heard it before, and I had a vague recollection that it was a name, but the facts certainly hadn’t stuck in my brain.
So, in the 1880s, Captain Charles Boycott was in charge the of the Irish estates of the Earl of Erne. I’m sure everyone remembers that this was not exactly an affluent time for the Irish. With potato famines and some absolutely awful laws that forbade the import of cheap foods to the island, people were quite literally starving to death. Well, Boycott refused to lower the rents for people on the estates, and he would evict anyone who couldn’t pay.
The people of County Mayo had had enough. They banded together and agreed that no one would have any dealings with this man until he relented. They wouldn’t work in his house. Shopkeepers refused to sell him anything. Basically, anything that required a local was refused to him and his household.
I daresay many of us have a longing–secret or not-so–to be a household name. Well, Boycott soon was…though probably not like he’d ever wanted. Very soon after this, boycott came to mean joining together to refuse to have dealings with someone or something. And it didn’t stop with entering the English language as such, either–the word has also been adopted by French, German, Dutch, and Russian.