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acclamation

Acclamation has a couple of definitions. One meaning is synonymous with the noun meaning of acclaim, i.e., enthusiastic praise.

A second meaning of acclamation is an overwhelming vote by voice, applause or some other noise, rather than by ballot.

I’m not a big fan of senior government officials being elected based on how many people are willing to scream like idiots when a candidate’d names id called out and how loudly those idiots scream, but that would be the case in an election by this sort of acclamation.

Fortunately, those sorts of votes are usually reserved for choosing game show winners, not electing Presidents and Prime Ministers. Then again, considering how many of our elected officials appeal to the idiot vote and win, I’m not sure that ballots are all that much of an improvement.

Upon reading this election-related definition of acclamation I thought that the dictionary I’m using, The New Penguin English Dictionary (1986), was crazy. I was sure that it was missing one commonplace election-related definition.

To confirm my suspicion of the craziness of that dictionary, I confirmed my understanding of the additional definition of acclamation in the dictionary bundled with Max OS/X. Much to my surprise, I learned that the New Penguin English Dictionary isn’t so much crazy as lacking in respect for Canadians.

According to the Mac OS/X-bundled dictionary, the definition of acclamation that I was thinking of is uniquely Canadian. Here in Canada, acclamation also means to win an election by default because nobody ran against you. In that case, you are said to have won by acclamation.

I was born in Canada. I’ve lived here all my life. I’ll probably die here, but hopefully not too soon because I’m only at the words beginning with acc in this project.

However, in addition to my deep Canadian roots, I’ve done a fair bit of traveling. And, as part of my job, marketing communications writing for software companies, I write marketing material for some American companies. Consequently, I thought I knew all the differences between American English and Canadian English. I also thought I knew most of the differences between British English and Canadian English.

Apparently, I don’t. I was certain that the win-by-default definition of acclamation was universal. It turns out, I was wrong about that. It’s a good thing that I’m not a political writer addressing non-Canadian audiences.

Do the rest of you people force candidates to run at gun point just to ensure that there is more than one person running for every position? If not, do you have a word for “winning because nobody ran against you”?

Winning by this sort of acclamation doesn’t occur much here in Canada. I haven’t done any research, but I can’t recall it ever happening in a federal or provincial election. It can occasionally happen with city councilor positions. But I think it’s more common for some of the “lesser” elected roles, like school board member. And it’s much more common for positions that aren’t open for general election, such as members of a condominium board.

Uncommon though it may be, it’s nice to have a word to use when someone wins by default. Acclamation does the trick for us. I recommend that the rest of you follow Canada’s lead on this.

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