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Words In Review: How 'gubernatorial' steered into our language

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“I’m hot for words like Van Halen is ‘Hot for Teacher.’”

That is what University of Washington Classics Professor Sarah Stroup told me. And it’s why reading this description cannot compete with clicking on the little arrow to play the audio. I mean, Van Halen will be there as you learn why we say “Governor Inslee” but “gubernatorial campaign.” Why the “g-u-b”?

Hint: You’ll also hear Cicero and Vivaldi, who were both Italian.

In case you can’t make the five minutes to listen, the Latin word “gubernator” was Latin for “pilot of a ship,” which was a crucial job in the rocky Mediterranean Sea. The word gave way to the French "governeur" but sailed back, thanks to manuscript hunters who rediscovered Latin texts in old monasteries and got Europe “hot for Latin.” Cue Van Halen, cue the Renaissance.

We generally only say “gubernatorial” around election time, and you’ll be hearing it a lot for the next year and a half in Washington State.

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