9.05.2008

Origin of the Word Maverick

mav·er·ick
Pronunciation: \ˈmav-rik, ˈma-və-\
Function: noun
1: an unbranded range animal; especially : a motherless calf
2: an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party

If you've watched any of the RNC08 you've heard the word Maverick used to describe Sen. John McCain in just about every speech. So what is a Maverick?

Most bloggers are too young to remember the 1950s TV show Maverick that made James Garner a star or the 1990s film version starring Mel Gibson and Garner; or the 60s - 70s car from FORD. So the word has no clear connection to recent zeitgeist. But with enough repetition, the Republican strategists hope it will define their image of McCain and Sarah Palin.

The root of it comes from a Texas politician and rancher from the 1860s: Samuel Maverick refused to brand his cattle. The reason he gave was he didn't want to be cruel to animals, but all his friends and neighbors said that wasn't so — he was just going around trying to round up all the unbranded cattle and claim them for himself.*

Maverick was also a conservative Southern politician who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. 

When people around there saw a calf running around without a brand on it and no mother — they'd say, mostly sarcastically, 'Those must be mavericks'.

Interestingly enough, his grandson, Maury Maverick took on the 1950s redbaiting/McCarthyism. Read Roberto Botello's remembrance of this real Maverick.

His great-grandson lives in Los Angeles. A self-described city-slicker, Andrew Maverick likes hearing tales of his great grandfather — and those unbranded calves that roamed freely in Texas. He also says that he's pretty much a conformist and no Maverick.

*NPR's Morning Edition. 9/4/08.

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