Synonyms can be revealing

I was struck by a politician’s use of a word the other day. Rick Santorum, referring to his endorsement of Mitt Romney on the Jay Leno show, said,

I voiced some of the things that I thought were important for us if we are going to be successful in this general election that he would take the cudgel and run with it

The metaphor intended by Santorum seems to be that of a race in which one runner passes a stick to the next runner whose turn it is to compete.

relay baton

In a relay race, a baton is passed from one runner to the next.

What struck me about the comment is that, instead of using the usual word for the stick passed to the next runner–baton–Santorum chose the word cudgel.

In my understanding, a relay baton is a symbol of teamwork and cooperation; a cudgel is a weapon for beating people into submission.

an assortment of shillelaghs

Irish cudgels are called shillelaghs.

Sometimes word choice reveals much about a speaker’s attitudes and intentions.

Related post: Synonyms for the humble stick

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