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Chuck Schumer, linguistic innovator?

J. Scott Applewhite/AP (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Sen. Chuck Schumer today told CNN that if the House passes a number of smaller immigration bills, “they’ll all get agglomerated as we go to conference at some point.”

News value of his comments aside, at first, we were certain that the New York Democrat had coined a new word, much like former President George W. Bush’s famous invention of the lovely — and quite useful —  “misunderestimate.” And with portmanteaus like “cronut” and “Sharknado” all the rage, we’re particularly on the lookout for fresh phrasing.

But our trusty Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us that, in fact, it’s a real word, meaning “to gather into a ball, mass, or cluster.”

Still, Schumer appears to be an innovator, applying to the world of lawmaking a word most often used in the context of industrial science. According to a quick Nexis search, newspapers have used the word and its variants only 66 times in the last two years. Almost all of those references are quite technical, such as “cork agglomerate” (used for wine bottles) or something called an “urban agglomerate,” a term often used in India to describe a city and its outgrowth.

We found but one legislative application of the word, and even that seems to be a reference to industry: the Kalgoorlie Miner, a paper in Western Australia, quoted the official conducting an inquiry into health and safety in the mining industry describing current mining law as “an untidy and unclear legislative agglomerate.”

So kudos to Schumer for introducing us to a fresh word, which we will promptly agglomerate into our vocabulary.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.



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Emily Heil · August 7, 2013

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