I have a question about the usage of the verb "exercise" in this book:

For this campaign, whose scope and duration were both so imponderable, he decided to take his whole life-support system, the means to exercise government, and everything that was necessary to make a grand show wherever he went...

I could not find "exercise government" in dictionaries. Could it be that "exercise government power" was the original intent?

  • 2
    exercise to discharge (a function); perform. government direction; control; management; rule. – ColleenV Mar 22 '16 at 18:50
  • "exercise government" occurs only three times in GloWBe (the global corpus of web-based English), and each time it is followed by another relevant word - either "power" or "administration". So this is not a common collocation. – Colin Fine Mar 22 '16 at 22:54
  • @ColinFine "the means to exercise government" is not a common thing to say, but it is understandable with a decent dictionary. Meatie likes to say things like "I couldn't find 'exercise mat' in a dictionary" or willfully misconstrue which definition of something applies to a given context and then pretend like there's some great mystery to the meaning of it all. I wonder if ELL will get any credit when they finish their NLP algorithm work. Some of Meatie's questions are interesting, but this isn't one of them. – ColleenV Mar 22 '16 at 23:10

"Government" is being used here to mean "the act (or process) of governing" - less common than the meaning "the organisation and people who govern", but not unknown.

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It seems as though it was probably the original intent as well as the current intent. In the context, "government" can be construed as "the powers of government". To exercise power is a more common idiom, but it doesn't make the author's usage incorrect.

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I agree it's awkward wording. It is common to say "exercise government power" or "exercise government authority". The intent here seems to be something like "show the prestige of his position as a government official", that is, "exercise" that status he gets from being in the government.

It's an odd wording. I wouldn't copy it.

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