Column: Politically correct grammar


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

Apparently, this is a big year for politics. While you read that last sentence on your screen or on the newsprint in front of you, roughly 70 trillion people tweeted something negative about whichever political party they don’t like. It’s hard to avoid politics, especially in a presidential election year. This article is no different.

Please, Grammar Guy, stay in your lane. Believe me: I will! I don’t want the emails.

Many people have asked me about terminology when it comes to our two predominant parties in American politics. Specifically, people have asked about the terms “Democrat” vs. “Democratic” Party. Republicans belong to the “Republican Party,” so why don’t Democrats belong to the “Democratic Party”?

As a side note, you should always, according to the AP stylebook, capitalize the name of a political movement. For instance, “Bill is a Democrat.” “Bob is a member of the Republican Party.” You should also capitalize political philosophies when referring to a specific political party: “Gene is a total Marxist.” “My boss Karen is a Socialist.” Are you with me so far?

There’s a simple answer to the question regarding “Democrat” or “Democratic” Party: Grammatically speaking, a noun can’t modify another noun. “Democrat” is a noun, while “democratic” is an adjective. In order to modify “Party,” we need the adjective “Democratic” to be grammatically correct. “Republican” serves as both a noun and an adjective, depending on the context.

I suppose the same could be said of the Bull Moose Party, with “Bull Moose” serving both as two nouns and a singular adjective. As another side note, the Bull Moose Party was named as such because Teddy Roosevelt, the unofficial party’s unofficial founder, referred to himself as fit as a “bull moose.” “Bullmoosian” just doesn’t sound right.

To refer to the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Party” is at least grammatically incorrect. Based on my research, “Democrat Party” has been used by opponents as an intentionally derogatory term since the 1940s. So, at best, calling the Democratic Party the “Democrat Party” is bad grammar.

In an attempt to have awesome grammar, say “Democratic Party.” It’s fine to disagree when it comes to our politics, but we are more alike than we are different. I think we should have far more parties — and by that I mean Monday boxed-wine parties, cheese parties, “Bachelorette” watch parties, and, yes, even grammar parties.