Once again the "Random Node" function brings inspiration. A couple of quotes that came to mind on the subject of landslides. Please bear with the length of the first one--it's worth a read.

"Afanasii Ivanovich Yelizarov once explained to Burannyi Yedigei how landslides are caused--those inevitable movements when whole slopes collapse, or sometimes the whole side of a mountain falls away, leaving gaping chasms in the thick crust of the earth, and snatching away the ground from under our feet. The danger of landslides is that the catastrophe develops unnoticed, from day to day; underground waters gradually wash away the base of the subsoil, and the there has only to be a slight shaking of the earth, thunder or heavy rain, before the mountain begins slowly and relentlessly to flow downwards.

" An ordinary earth fall happens unexpectedly and suddenly. The landslide moves threateningly, and there is no force which can stop it. Something very much like this can happen with a man, when he is left on his own with his irresistable conflicts; he struggles, his soul so shattered that he cannot tell his trouble to anyone because there is no one on earth in a position to either help or even understand him. He knows this, if frightens him. And this weighs down on him ..."

From "The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years" (1980) by Chingiz Aitmatov, a writer from Kirghizia. I recommend this book very highly, though (because it deals--on a personal level--with nationality issues in Soviet Central Asia) it may be out of print, or inaccessible for other reasons.

Quote 2 is a little easier to bear:

"As Arthur ran, darting, dashing and panting down the side of the mountain, he suddenly felt the whole bulk of the mountain move very, very slightly beneath him. There was a rumble, a roar, and a slight blurred movement, and a lick of heat in the distance behind and above him. He ran in a frenzy of fear. The land began to slide, and he suddenly felt the force of the word "landslide" in a way that had never been apparent to him before. It has always just been a word to him, but not he was suddenly and horribly aware that sliding is a strange and sickening thing for land to do. It was doing it with him on it. He felt ill with fear and trembling. The ground slid, the mountain slurred, he slipped, he fell, he stood, he slipped again and ran. The avalanche began.

"Stones, then rocks, then boulders, pranced past him like clumsy puppies, only much bigger, much, much harder and heavier, and almost infinitely more likely to kill you if they fell on you."

--From "Life, the Universe, and Everything" by Douglas Adams

In politics, a "landslide" refers to an election in which one party's victory is overwhelming. Just as in any other sport, the only thing that matters in elections is who wins and loses, but a landslide victory can have added benefits, such as a coattail effect, and the fact that (if the position being run for is an executive one) it can give the winner a mandate, because their agenda was supported by a large number of voters.

What constitutes a "landslide" is not a precisely defined thing. Since elections are often played up for drama in the newsmedia, elections are defined as being landslides with around a 10% margin in the popular vote. Because of the electoral college system in the United States, and the parliamentary system in many other countries, an apparently greater landslide can occur in those numbers. In the electoral college system, for example, a 55% popular vote would probably translate into a 75% electoral college vote; and in a parliamentary system the ruling party may get a slight margin in a large number of districts, again giving a situation where 55% of the popular vote could turn into 75% of the districts.

I feel that the metaphor of a "landslide" can be somewhat misleading. In an actual avalanche, of course, the weight of the earth would be thousands of times greater than that what is buried, which is truly overwhelming. In a landslide in an election (at least in a modern Democracy), the margin of victory is usually around 10%. If there was a group of 20 people, and 11 of them felt one way, and 9 felt the other, it would hardly be considered an overwhelming tide of opinion. And yet, in elections, an 11-9 split would be considered quite an overwhelming majority.

Land"slip` (?), Land"slide` (?), n.

1.

The slipping down of a mass of land from a mountain, hill, etc.

2.

The land which slips down.

 

© Webster 1913.

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