Making Sense of the New Political Lexicon

Today, while I’m getting my side hustle on at the NJ primary polls, I feel compelled to write about a somewhat political subject that annoys me to the core. It may be a stretch to think of such topics as some kind of personal finance advice…alright, it’s more than a stretch. It’s akin to thinking about hoping to find some small change on the ground while walking down the street as an answer to all your financial needs, but I digress. Allow me this diversion and on Friday, we’ll get back to money talk.

Making Sense of the New Political LexiconWhat I want to talk about today is politics and the upcoming 2016 presidential election. No, I swear I’m not going to try and influence you with my personal political view, and I am not going to tell you who you should vote for either. What I am going to do is tell about the new political lexicon that is being bandied about by, for, and about the candidates. It’s spoken by the political reporters so that I hear it dozens of times a day. In fact, it’s reinventing the English language. I just don’t get it and maybe it’s just me. I probably spend way too much time listening to all that garbage every day, but I am admitting right here and now I am addicted to it. It may be having the side effect of distorting my hearing!

So, no matter who you support, from the extreme left to the extreme right, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians or some other party, it really doesn’t matter. When it comes to language, all parties and the talking heads that cover them are reinventing language to make it fit into the new political lexicon!

And so I bring you ten terms that I never knew the real meaning of…

1. Double Down

To me, double down has always meant the act of taking a blackjack hand and betting double on the draw of a single card, like having an 11 showing and hoping to double down on the draw of a face card (10 points).  Today, its political meaning means re-emphasizing your political point to make it more emphatic to get the voters’ support. Often doubling down occurs after some controversy over the original point, making it even more notable.

2. Push Back

Wow, push back used to mean you push me and I’ll physically push you back. It still means somewhat the same, but it’s a resistance to comments, allegations, and point of view in the “civilized world” of the political arena. Often after getting push back, candidates will double down on their original position.

3. At the End of the Day

Oh, this one really gets me. “At the end of the day”, isn’t that like midnight?  No, not in the world of politics. “At the end of the day” is the new, “when all is said and done”. That phrase can also be annoying, but I really believe at the end of the day, At The End of the Day will win that honor hands down!

4. Path to

Hansel and Gretel? You remember leaving the breadcrumbs and all that stuff? Well, today it’s some convoluted explanation as to how you get enough delegates to get you the nomination.

5. In the Conversation

You, me, and a friend…we’re all in the conversation, right? In politics however, it means the press (or perhaps social media) has mentioned your name and it may be either be in a good way or a bad way. Never the less, you’re “in the conversation”.

6. Walk Back

Simple, isn’t it? It’s essentially the opposite of push back. What it always meant to me was the act of walking home after school. Now it has become the act of retracting a statement you have made about something, sorta talking it back…ha ha I was just kidding!

7. Playing the _____ Card

After the OJ Simpson trial, I had always thought that there was only one card you could play, the Race Card. But now I have learned that there is the Woman Card as well! As my wife always says, “there are no cards!!” Please stop it.

8. Rails

The Metro Liner from NY to Washington? Nope. It’s the act of loud and bombastic objection to something someone says about you or what you have done. Do you see any connection here?

9. Pivot

Wilt Chamberlain was one of the great pivot men in basketball when I was a kid. It meant he would get a pass in the middle of the front court and “pivot” around to make his shot! One day he scored 100 points in a game (still the NBA record)! Now pivot means politically turning your attention from one thing to another. Pivoting to a new topic and direction.

10. Resonate

The only way I’ve ever used this word was to describe a long clear sound that can be heard for a while, like a siren resonating from a police car. Today, politically speaking, it means to appeal emotionally and deeply to your political constituents. Who knew?


Ok, that’s my complaint for the day. Do you notice this stuff? If you watch CNN or MSNBC or FOX News on TV even for just 30 mins, you will hear this stuff over and over again. Maybe that’s my problem? Perhaps I should watch reruns of Mr. Ed, the old comedy from the 60’on the Decades channel instead. At least when he spoke I understood what he said.

Do all these buzzwords irritate you? If so, do you ignore them like reasonable person would. Or do you find yourself tossing and turning at night wondering what the English language has come to?

8 Comments

  1. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    You forgot “Compromise.” It used to mean finding a solution to a problem that the parties of a disagreement will find mutually acceptable. It was a goal of good governance. Now it means abandoning your principles and betraying your former supporters.

  2. I hate the way politicians and those running for office abuse language in these ways. I know they are not going to say everything they mean (and I understand how that can be beneficial), but there is an art that feels lacking in our current discourse.

  3. Hah, I hadn’t even noticed how much politics has twisted those words. You just get used to hearing them to the point that they become commonplace. Though “rails” is pretty close the dictionary definition of railing against something. Most of the rest has become utterly euphemistic, as you observed.

  4. So often I feel like politics is about buzzwords and sound bytes. Our attention spans are so short anymore so what catches the attention of the average facebook-brained, Netflix junky is the thing that gets spread around. People are so fed up with politics anymore I feel. The increased polarization of both sides makes it more difficult to agree with either side. In some states you are forced to vote with your registered party. Don’t get me started on the electoral college or the two senators per state issue.

    I enjoy the break from money for once. Very nice post!

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