Did You Know? - Turncoat

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - by Jerry Summers

Although the current political environment may or may not involve politicians changing their positions on controversial issues, the term “turncoat” has a much longer history than the present atmosphere existing since the 2016 and 2020 elections.

            The term was first used prior to the 1500s by an unidentified Duke of Saxony but next appeared in English in the mid-1500s when the duke's castle lay between French and Saxon territory.

            He found himself and his land uncomfortably situated directly in the middle of a war between the two factions.

            The duke came up with the creative idea of an attempt to appease both sides when confronted.

            He had a reversible coat made of blue material in support of the Saxon side and lined with a white color material for the French color.

            The side he wore facing out depended on which monarch he needed to stay in favor with during the conflict.  Then, depending on who was occupying his land, he could wear the appropriate color of his allegiance.

            Originally referred to by the French term tourne-cote (turn side) the term was first Anglicized in Scots’ Magazine in 1747.

            The idea was soon applied figuratively to anyone who changed sides, whether in the military or in politics, as is today.

            In 2009 the term was applied to Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania who abandoned the Republican Party to become a Democrat.

            In 2021 it is yet undetermined as to whether the term “turncoat” will be used more frequently in the 2022 congressional races or the 2024 presidential election?

(Excerpts from “The Little Book of Answers” – Author – Doug Lennox – (2003) – MJF Books – New York, NY 1001.


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