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October 7, 2008

I am always saddened when powerful words like "love," "terror" or "tragedy" lose their strength and even eventually their meaning owing to overuse, bowdlerization and/or general carelessness.

I've been feeling this disappointment particularly strongly of late with respect to what was until recently one of my favorite words: "maverick."

Maverick was once a wonderful word. It sticks on the tongue and in the heart. It reminds me of wild, empty plains; of life lived on the edge. The way in which the McCain-Palin junket has seized the word and made it synonymous with stolid Republican values inspires nothing in me but boredom and disgust.

So it was a great relief to turn on the radio yesterday and catch the middle of the latest edition of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's great news commentary show, As It Happens. During the show, the host interviewed an 82-year-old woman by the name of Terrellita Maverick. Ms. Maverick lives in San Antonio, Texas. She comes from a long line of Mavericks. She's what you might call a "genuine Maverick."

When asked for her thoughts about McCain-Palin's attempt to turn her family name into part of the brand image of Republican campaign, Ms. M was naturally indignant. She said that the Republicans had no business using the word "maverick", regardless of whether it's with a capital or small "m." She then went on to relay her family's history in the real-estate and cattle business. The original meaning of the word "maverick" apparently dates back to the mid-1800s, when one Samuel A. Maverick (1803-70), a Texas cattle owner and one of the interviewee's ancestors, was negligent in branding his calves and became known for his individualist behavior.

The seven-minute interview was wonderful, despite the fact that Ms. Maverick, perhaps suffering from slight deafness, called Palin "precocious" and "a good speaker." (Alas I don't think the pensioner was being ironic.) I really needed to let off some election season steam. Hooray for Canada.


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