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Post by trolley » Fri Sep 27, 2013 7:27 pm

Here is a new one, for me. I read this on the CBC News website this morning "The brinkmanship on Capitol Hill has been ratcheting higher as Washington's fiscal deadlines loom." I've never come across this one before and although I had half an idea about what it could mean, it seemed a bit of a stretch.

brink·man·ship (brngkmn-shp) also brinks·man·ship (brngks-)
The practice, especially in international politics, of seeking advantage by creating the impression that one is willing and able to push a highly dangerous situation to the limit rather than concede.

It still seems a bit stretchy to me. I'll file it away but I doubt that I'll ever have need of this word when I can just play chicken or rattle my sabre.
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Re: brinkmanship

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Sep 29, 2013 4:59 am

John, I think the term brinkmanship/brinksmanship is kind of catchy. But it is not a word that would normally be used in our everyday interactions. It’s mainly for big stuff like the escalation of threats in politics (international and otherwise), labor negotiations, military confrontations (Cuban Missile Crisis), etc.

In checking the use of brinkmanship versus brinksmanship in one news archive, I found that ‘brinkmanship’ was favored by a margin of over 2 to 1. I always thought it was ‘brinks’ and didn’t know that the other form even existed. The OED doesn’t list ‘brinksmanship,’ although all other dictionaries I checked do.

Now on to weightier matters: citizen → citizenship; craftsman → craftsmanship; horseman → horsemanship; marksman → marksmanship; showman → showmanship; . . . So, brinkman → brinkmanship. But NOO!! Here, brinkmanship → brinkman (one who practices brinkmanship). A backformation – so says the OED. You might want to toss this one out at your next dinner party when there’s a lull in the conversation.

And, speaking of the OED, here’s their listing:

BRINKMANSHIP noun [brink -manship suffix] [1956]: The art of advancing to the very brink of war but not engaging in it; also transferred and figurative.
[[-manship = skill in a particular activity]]

And now for some etymology:

“During the 1956 presidential campaign, Democrats led by Adlai Stevenson accused the Eisenhower Administration, and particularly Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, of brinkmanship.” [[See 1956 quote below]] — However, it was Dulles who first introduced the work ‘brink’ in reference to the political maneuver: “The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art. If you cannot master it, you inevitably get into war. If you try to run away from it, if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost.”—Safire’s Political Dictionary, pages 83-84.

The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:
<1956 “He [sc. Adlai Stevenson] derided the Secretary [sc. J. F. Dulles] for ‘boasting of his brinkmanship—the art of bringing us to the edge of the nuclear abyss.’”—New York Times, 26 February, page 1/5>

<1958 “Anglo-French ‘brinkmanship’ over Suez had failed to stop at the brink.”—The Annual Register 1957, page 183>

<1958 “Krushchev is the true Brinkman: his existence depending . . . on enemy-at-the-gatemanship.”—Supermanship by S. Potter, page 127>

<1958 “Jackson Pollock . . . was . . . one to whom every new painting was . . . almost an act of spiritual brinkmanship.”—The Times (London), 11 November>

<1973 “The cool and calculated exercise in brinksmanship through which Milwaukee teachers won most of their demands in the contract dispute with the Milwaukee School Board was a tactical masterpiece . . .”—Milwaukee Sentinel (Wisconsin), 3 January>

<1987 “Funding for Glasgow’s proposed £20m concert hall was secured yesterday after a tense exercise in brinkmanship between city council leaders and representatives of a property.”— Glasgow Herald (Scotland), 12 May, page 29>

<1998 “For months now, the confrontation between antitrust chief Joel I. Klein and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has been building into a classic, Washington-style showdown -- an extreme version of the sort of brinksmanship and bravado practiced every day by lawyers in private firms and federal agencies throughout town.”—Washington Post (D.C.), 17 May>

<2004 “Scottish Opera should back away from rows and brinkmanship and settle its funding crisis quietly, the principal of Scotland's leading music and drama school has urged.”—The Scotsman (Edinburgh), 22 April>

<2008 “Yet this is the most serious diplomatic conflict in South America for more than a decade. Political brinkmanship could easily tip over into shooting.”—The Economist (U.S.), 8 March>

<2013 “The ratio of brinkmanship to actual policy accomplishment in the capitol has moved distressingly close to infinity.”—Washington Post (D.C.), 17 July>

Ken – September 28, 2013
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Re: brinkmanship

Post by Bobinwales » Sun Sep 29, 2013 5:45 pm

I wouldn't say that brinkmanship is used daily by any means, but it is certainly in common use and I often use it myself.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

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