Word for today: Muckraker

Blog, On language

© 2017 Zapiro (All Rights Reserved) Used with permission from www.zapiro.com

With the South African government in a complete twist about the recent release of Jacques Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers (with its damning allegations about President’s Zuma’s misconduct) my word for today is muckraker. 

From the word, muckrake


(n) an agricultural rake for spreading manure

(v) to seek out and expose scandal, especially concerning public figures

The word first came into use in 1684 when John Bunyan used it in The Pilgrim’s Progress. He wrote about the man “with a muckrake in his hand” who “could look no way but downwards” – a representation of man’s preoccupation with earthly things.

The word was then popularised by President Teddy Roosevelt in his 1906 speech which criticised journalists who focused too much on exposing corruption in government. “The men with the muckrakes,” he said, “are often indispensable to the well-being of society, but only if they know when to stop raking the muck.”

Rather than feeling insulted by this description, investigative reporters adopted the term muckraker as a badge of honour. And the verb muckraking is now used in British English to describe the practice of exposing misconduct.

Example sentence: Jacques Pauw has written a muckraking book about Jacob Zuma’s corrupt governance.

Go on, get yourself a (legal) copy and read it today!

Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance content writer and editor

I help traditional and digital publishers deliver engaging and informative content that resonates with their readers. Internationally qualified writer and editor with 13 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com


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