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"Vetting" Candidates:

The word comes from "vet" as in "veterinarian," Juliet Lapidos reports in Slate's Explainer, and the Oxford English Dictionary confirms it. On reflection, it makes sense -- from veterinarian to "To submit (an animal) to examination or treatment by a veterinary surgeon" to "to investigate the suitability of (a person) for a post that requires loyalty and trustworthiness" -- but I wouldn't have expected it.

Clastrenster:
A sexist unvetted post looks like this: Let us note that this is the fastest vice presidential candidate to have lurid (faked?) internet photos way in advance of always-sane National Enquirer vetting procedures.
9.4.2008 1:59am
neurodoc:
A 3-letter word that has gone from relative obscurity, at least on this side of the Atlantic, to commonplace usage in a matter of days. I'm trying to think of another word, especially a verb rather than novel noun, that has had such a meteoric rise. There must be others, but none occurs to me.
9.4.2008 2:07am
Clastrenster:
If you've held a shaky hourly job in the US recently, "can" has had a send off of late.
9.4.2008 2:19am
Clastrenster:
Also, "tab" holds a specific relationship to "vet" in this process.
9.4.2008 2:23am
Clastrenster:
But this is, evidently, still the age of high dis.
9.4.2008 2:34am
Viceroy:
I recently saw an explanation for the term "boilerplate".
9.4.2008 2:35am
neurodoc:
If you've held a shaky hourly job in the US recently, "can" has had a send off of late.
Maybe a temporary surge in usage, but not unfamiliar to commonplace in space of 2 or 3 days.

Also, "tab" holds a specific relationship to "vet" in this process.
Sorry, don't get it. What does "tab" mean here?

[Would someone explain "concern trolling" to me. Saw that for the first time in one of these agitated VC political threads.]
9.4.2008 2:51am
Clastrenster:
I suppose it depends on context-- vet is a commonplace term for any applicant process, often related to can (one vets after canning), and tab holds a complex relationship to both, meaning here something like "choose". Dis, of course, speaks of itself.
9.4.2008 2:54am
Clastrenster:
None of the terms have these common usages outside of the workplace (vet being for animals, can being for containers or abilities), except for dis, which has experienced several decades of fluctuation through varying demographic ruts, unless you've hid in a lexical can.
9.4.2008 2:58am
Clastrenster:
(as i often try do!)
9.4.2008 2:59am
PC:
Also, "tab" holds a specific relationship to "vet" in this process.


I always try to use Tab(TM) and Tanqueray in the same sentence, but I'm an elitist.

neurodoc:
[Would someone explain "concern trolling" to me. Saw that for the first time in one of these agitated VC political threads.]


It's when someone is opposed to a specific view, but pretends to side with those views and expresses "concern" over something (scare quotes are appropriate). There are many iterations on the theme, e.g. James Carville giving advice to Republicans.
9.4.2008 3:02am
Tony Tutins (mail):
"vet" took decades to cross the Atlantic. NGO seems to have taken a secure foothold here lately -- the American term "non-profit organization" never resonated with the British. And I think I've seen some Americans standing for election recently. But I don't expect to see any quangoes over here.
9.4.2008 4:37am
J. Aldridge:
The word vetting can be found in english law, like "Vetting Order."
9.4.2008 6:18am
J. Aldridge:
I take that back... I think Google mistranslates "vesting" to vetting.
9.4.2008 6:24am
Gerg:
Uhm, this is a joke right? "vet" comes from the same latin root as "veto"
9.4.2008 8:51am
David M. Nieporent (www):
A 3-letter word that has gone from relative obscurity, at least on this side of the Atlantic, to commonplace usage in a matter of days. I'm trying to think of another word, especially a verb rather than novel noun, that has had such a meteoric rise. There must be others, but none occurs to me.
Well, it's a noun rather than a verb, but an obvious example is also from recent U.S. politics: "chad."
9.4.2008 11:09am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Gerg: Interesting -- can you point me to some evidence for the vet/veto connection? As I mentioned in my post, the Oxford English Dictionary supports the theory I quote. I just checked the Random House, available for free at dictionary.com, and it does, too. Yet you seem quite confident in your contrary assertion; I take it there's a source you can point to on it, yes?
9.4.2008 11:15am
karl newman (mail):
As a physician who takes care of Veterans (at a VA Hospital), I've wondered if there is a connection between vet, Veteran and veterinarian.
9.4.2008 11:49am
neurodoc:
David M. Nieporent, "chad" is 4-letters, but a most excellent example of a word going from utter obscurity to fame (notoreity?) in record speed. Interesting that it too came to prominence (awareness) in an election contest. (Can we have a show of hands to see how many had ever heard, let alone used, "chad" prior to November 2000, except as a boy's name?)

Clastrenster, I thought you meant "can" in the usual sense of "fire" or "terminate employment," but now I'm not sure ("one vets after canning"). Do you have something else in mind for "can"? Is there somewhere where people when chosen are said to have been "tabbed"?

karl newman, it has been a great many years now, but as an intern and a resident, I spent a good deal of time in a teaching VA hospital. Indeed it was so long ago that a surviving (what other kind?) veteran of the Spanish-American War was admitted during my time there. "Vets" were a different training experience than we got across the street at the university hospital. (It was a huge coup to discover that the person just admitted to your service from the emergency room in the middle of the night was a veteran and turf him back across the street.) Do be careful with your musings about "a connection between vet, Veteran and veterinarian" lest it get you in trouble with any of those veterans' organizations that have a presence in VA hospitals.
9.4.2008 12:25pm
Uh_Clem (mail):
Thanks for the explanation. I first encountered the term about 15 years ago in a John LeCarre novel and didn't understand it at first. I tried looking it up, but my pre-internet sources came up empty. Eventually, I absorbed the meaning through context, but until now hadn't seen a definition or etymology (or thought about it much, for that matter).

Neurodoc: see this definition.
9.4.2008 12:26pm
billb:
I like that the OED's quotes for early uses of the term are equestrian. They start with an 1891 quote about having the veterinarian check out your race horse:

1891 'ANNIE THOMAS' That Affair II. i. 11 Beau is shaky in his fore legs. I shall have him vetted before the races.

And then, as it relates to looking for deficiencies in people they quote:

1904 KIPLING Traffics &Discov. 270 These are our crowd... They've been vetted, an' we're putting 'em through their paces.

And, of course, the definition for pace includes the following:

[P2]b. to put (a horse, etc.) through (its, etc.) paces: to make (a horse) demonstrate its various gaits; (later also in extended use) to test or prove all the capabilities of (a person, machine, etc.).

Given the Kipling reference as their earliest example, I'd guess that the usage of vet in the current context was understood by the English upper class when he wrote it but never became fashionable in political discourse until Americans had adopted it years later.
9.4.2008 12:58pm
neurodoc:
Professor Volokh, how about doing a Nexus search for us on "vet" to see how many times it has been used in the past few years? I expect such a search would prove up what we all seem to agree upon, that is that "vet" has come into its own only since McCain's people vetted Palin.
Uh_Clem, thanks for the explanation of "concern trolling." Pretty much what I surmised. Maybe EV will start a thread sometime on words, terms, abbreviations, and the like that owe largely to the new communication modes the Internet has brought.
9.4.2008 2:03pm
Milhouse (www):
neurodoc, "chad" was certainly in my working vocabulary before 2000, but I was surprised by the way it was used then. In my experience until then, "chad" was a collective noun, like "paper" or "rice". One could not have "a chad", but only "a piece of chad". And I had certainly never heard of "chads". When I saw it used that way in 2000, I attributed it to ignorant journalists.

As for "vet", I can't remember a time when it wasn't in my vocabulary, though such a time must of course once have existed.

I share your puzzlement at Clastrenster's use of "can". And I have no idea what people mean here by "tab".
9.4.2008 2:24pm
speedwell (mail):
I thought it came from nineteenth-century horse/dog racetrack slang. Pre-race examination by a veterinarian would have been referred to as "vetting" the animal as fit to compete.
9.4.2008 2:39pm
speedwell (mail):
Or I could read the article, duh. :)
9.4.2008 2:44pm
Hoosier:
speedwell--Now, let's not act rashly.
9.4.2008 6:22pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
If I get it, a concern troll would say, "Guys, you have a huge hole in your argument. You'd better deal with it or people will think you're idiots."
While a normal statement would be "Guys. You have a huge hole in your argument. You're idiots."
The concern troll's implication is that the other side knows about the hole but is operating under the impression that nobody else does.
The second approach presumes the huge hole is news to the other side.
9.4.2008 9:33pm