Recuse: a Word Worth Defending for the Best Posts lists

Recuse: a Word Worth Defending for the Best Posts lists

Regular readers (and fellow bloggers) will have noticed long before this that I am now the editor of the monthly Best Posts lists for Chicago Now. Yet I’m not about to stop writing, and one post I wrote did appear on the February 2021 list.

I left that post on the list for February because someone else selected it. (Each blogger is asked to name the best thing he wrote during each month and the best writing by someone else, with only one selection in each category.) I wasn’t about to select something that only I thought was my best work.

I think of that (every month now) as recusing myself from the judging. As my Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (second edition, not all that new) puts it, to recuse is to “challenge (a judge, jury or court) as prejudiced or otherwise incompetent to act.”

I left the February post on the list because it was someone else’s judgment that it was among the best posts of the month. My own judgment might not be incompetent, but it’s certainly prejudiced. (Another reason I added my own post to February’s list was that I had chosen something else as my best work for the month!)

So while I’m still writing, and still trying to make the Best Posts lists, I have recused myself from adding my posts if I’m the only person nominating them. It’s a valuable word that should see some use apart from tales of the Supreme Court, so I am happy to use recuse.

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.


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  • Your definition is correct; Webster's isn't. The judge recuses oneself, and doesn't necessarily has to be challenged.

    The legal standard of recusal is an economic conflict of interest or an appearance of impropriety. I don't know if any of that applies in the blogosphere,

  • In reply to jack:

    Thank you, Jack. I don't know how others would define an appearance of impropriety, but mine is as I explain here -- rating my own writing (without an agreement) would not be proper, but I could accept someone else's nomination.

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