A conservative-ish friend was visiting me a couple of weeks ago and wanted to know what the word "progressive" meant. It's just someone who's really far to the left, isn't it? I said no, not really, it was basically a term born a few years ago when liberals decided that the word "liberal" was irreparably tarnished and we needed something new to call ourselves. But beyond that, honestly, I wasn't entirely sure.
Turns out I'm not alone. Chris Moody explores the etymology of the word here, and apparently no one else really knows for sure either. Enjoy. But there's one thing he misses: Glenn Beck has been spending a ton of time and energy demonizing the word "progressive" over the past couple of years, and I suspect my friend was reacting to the fallout from that. So trying to find a new word didn't work. No matter what we call ourselves, conservatives are going to do their best to make it unfit for polite company. Probably best not to worry too much about it.