Source: Oxford Dictionaries
George: What about candleholders?
Jerry: Too romantic.
Jerry: Too sexual.
George: Waffle maker?
Jerry: Too domestic.
George: Bust of Nelson Rockefeller?
Jerry: Too gubernatorial.
– Seinfeld (Season 2, Episode 9 – The Deal)
Despite its serious connotation, I first learned today’s Word of the Week from an episode of one of my favorite comedy shows, Seinfeld. After making his infamous “deal” with Elaine, Jerry learns the real challenge of maintaining a friends-with-benefits relationship when he tries and fails to find a birthday gift for her that won’t send the wrong message. This leads to the hilarious exchange above that ends with an exasperated George sarcastically suggesting the only item in the store with no romantic undertones, which Jerry still dismisses as “too political”. He does have a point: given that he was once the governor of New York, a bust of Nelson Rockefeller is indeed “gubernatorial”!
Anything defined as “gubernatorial” refers to a governor or the office of governor, particularly a state governor in the US. The word arose in the mid 18th century and comes from the Latin noun gubernator, meaning “governor”. This noun stems from the verb gubernare “to govern”, which in turn derives from the Greek verb kubernáō “to steer”.
For obvious reasons, the word “gubernatorial” comes up most often in the media during congressional election cycles. However, it’s important to note that while it may be confused for a general political word, this adjective refers specifically to the office of governor (the senate equivalent, for example, would be “senatorial”). If you write political fiction with characters who are or plan to be governors, “gubernatorial” may be a useful word for your stories!
What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?