Lodestar 2

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Following up on the idea that the use of the word lodestar is evidence of Mike Pence's authorship

From the anonymous NYT editorial, describing McCain: "a lodestar for restoring honor to public life".

From Kissinger at McCain's funeral: "Honor was John's Lodestar".

From Holinshed, The Third volume of Chronicles, beginning at duke William the Norman, commonlie called the Conqueror; and descending by degrees of yeeres to all the kings and queenes of England in their orderlie successions  (1586), a description of Henry the Fifth at his death in 1422:

Knowen be it therefore, of person and forme was this prince rightlie representing his heroicall affects, of stature and proportion tall and manlie, rather leane than grose, somewhat long necked and blacke haired, of countenance amiable, eloquent and graue was his spéech, and of great grace and power to persuade: for conclusion, a maiestie was he that both liued & died a paterne in princehood, a lode-starre in honour, and mirrour of magnificence: the more highlie exalted in his life, the more déepelie lamented at his death, and famous to the world alwaie.

From William Francis Bourdillon, "Lament for Belgium" (1914):

61 And when our children's children shall walk that blood-drenched soil,
62 Where scarce is field to ravage or city left to spoil,
63 And see the cattle grazing and townsfolk at their toil;

64 Then shall they say of Belgium, in language soft with tears,
65 'She was a lesser star whom fire made bright above her peers,
66 To be the shining lodestar by which all honour steers.'

From the North Korean Central News Agency in English, 12/3/1987:

Today the South Korean people are ardently revering dear Comrade Kim Chong-il, considering it supreme honour and happiness to hold him in high esteem as the lodestar of the nation.

Update — see Kyle Swenson and Allyson Chiu, "Nixon had ‘Deep Throat,’ Trump has ‘Lodestar’: An archaic word becomes a resistance hashtag", WaPo 9/6/2018.

Update #2 — As Ben Zimmer points out in the comments, there have been some more serious attempts at authorship analysis. I'm about to head to the airport in Hyderabad for the long plane ride back to Philadelphia via London, in British Airways' execrable cramped coach seats. After I get back and get some sleep, I'll do a more serious review of the various attempts.



  1. Sili said,

    September 6, 2018 @ 6:34 am

    »paterne in princehood, a lode-starre in honour, and mirrour of magnificence«

    Alliteration, non-alliteration, alliteration. Is that sorta construction called anything?

    [(myl) Note also that "lode-starre in honour" is backwards-alliterative.]

  2. Andreas Johansson said,

    September 6, 2018 @ 8:12 am

    So, we've established that Holinshed is the resistor inside the administration?

  3. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 6, 2018 @ 9:13 am

    Sili: It means Holinshed didn't think of "lordship" instead of "honour", or thought it would be too much.

    Does anyone know what the acute accents in that passage are about?

    In Poul Anderson's SF novel The Man Who Counts, a.p.a. War of the Wing-men, a tribe of seafaring aliens worships the Lodestar. My mentioning that means I couldn't think of anything relevant.

  4. Y said,

    September 6, 2018 @ 10:47 am

    Interestingly, "lodestar for…", as used by anonymous, is not reflected by any of the quotes I've seen taken from the speeches of Pence, the current Twitter favorite. However, McCain himself said in a recent 60 Minutes interview, "I was raised in the concept and belief that duty, honor, country is the lodestar for the behavior that we have to exhibit every single day."

  5. Ethan Merritt said,

    September 6, 2018 @ 12:41 pm

    @Y: So you're suggesting that the Op-Ed piece was by McCain, published posthumously? That is at least as plausible as some of the other proposals being bruited.

  6. Alex Deam said,

    September 6, 2018 @ 1:32 pm

    This BBC piece tries to go beyond 'lodestar' and looks numerically at the text in comparison with Pence's speeches. What do you make of it?


  7. Ben Zimmer said,

    September 6, 2018 @ 2:05 pm

    @Alex Deam: I agree with Geoff Nunberg's tweeted assessment ("junk linguistics at the Beeb").

  8. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    September 6, 2018 @ 2:09 pm

    The World Science Fiction Society has just created a Lodestar Award for Young Adult fiction. Perhaps the author of the article is a member of the society.

  9. Ben Zimmer said,

    September 6, 2018 @ 2:59 pm

    Don't bother with that BBC "analysis" and check out these better reads instead:

    Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai (interviewing Shlomo Argamon), "Forensic Linguist Says 'Lodestar' Can't Tell Us Who Burned Trump in New York Times Op-Ed" (Motherboard)

    Tristin Hopper (interviewing Claire Hardaker, Patrick Juola, Shlomo Argamon, and Jack Grieve), "Who wrote the Trump White House ‘resistance’ letter? We asked some forensic linguists" (National Post)

    Claire Hardaker, "How to be a (recreational) forensic linguist"

    James Harbeck, "The delicate art of using linguistics to identify an anonymous author" (The Week)

    David Robinson, "Who wrote the anti-Trump New York Times op-ed? Using tidytext to find document similarity" (Variance Explained)

  10. MC said,

    September 6, 2018 @ 11:11 pm

    Given Trump's suggestion that the author should be "turned over" to the government as a national security risk, would professional linguists find it ethical to publicly identify the author, if they could confidently do so?

  11. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 7, 2018 @ 8:28 am

    MC: If the author of the article had committed a crime, this would bring up a dilemma: Is it unethical to report a criminal or not to?

  12. Ray said,

    September 8, 2018 @ 8:23 am

    stormy daniels wrote it, of course. LOADSTAR.

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