H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
United States the word means, and has meant for years, a meeting of some division, large or small, of a political or legislative body for the purpose of agreeing upon a united course of action in the main assembly. In England it means the managing committee of a party or fractionsomething corresponding to our national committee, or state central committee, or steering committee, or to the half-forgotten congressional caucuses of the 20s. It has a disparaging significance over there, almost equal to that of our words organization and machine. Moreover, it has given birth to two derivatives of like quality, both unknown in Americacaucusdom, meaning machine control, and caucuser, meaning a machine politician.2
A good many other such Americanisms have got into good usage in England, and new ones are being exported constantly. Farmer describes the process of their introduction and assimilation. American books, newspapers and magazines, especially the last, circulate in England in large number, and some of their characteristic locutions strike the English fancy and are repeated in conversation. Then they get into print, and begin to take on respectability. The phrase, as the Americans say, he continues, might in some cases be ordered from the type foundry as a logotype, so frequently does it do introduction duty.3 Ware shows another means of ingress: the argot of sailors. Many of the Americanisms he notes as having become naturalized in England, e. g., boodle, boost and walk-out, are credited to Liverpool as a sort of half-way station. Travel brings in still more: England swarms with Americans, and Englishmen themselves, visiting America, are struck by the new and racy phrases that they hear, and afterward take them home and try them on their friends. The English authors who burden every west-bound ship, coming here to lecture, have especially sharp ears for
Note 2. The Concise Oxford Dictionary and Cassell, following the late J. H. Trumbull, the well-known authority on Indian languages, derive the word from the Algonquin cau-cau-as-u or kaw-kaw-asu, one who advises. But most other authorities, following Pickering, derive it from caulkers. The first caucuses, it would appear, were held in a caulkers shop in Boston, and were called caulkers meetings. The Rev. William Gordon, in his History of the Rise and Independence of the United States, Including the Late War, published in London in 1788, said that more than fifty years ago Mr. Samuel Adams father and twenty others, one or two from the north end of the town [Boston], where the ship business is carried on, used to meet, make a caucus and lay their plans for introducing certain persons into places of trust and power. [back]