Sarah Palin set the spirit for 2010 when she declared from her favorite soap box, “English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!” Celebrate we will. The popular political vocabulary got a little more colorful this year thanks to the likes of Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, and Eric Massa (Remember him?). Watching the legislative sausage get made elevated a few select phrases from the committee room nomenclature to everyday chatter. Plus, the midterm campaign delivered its share of funnies, verbal souvenirs which will take with us into the new year.
Grab your notebooks, here are the new entries for our political dictionary.
Aqua Buddha n. a divinity worshipped by the members of the Noze Brotherhood, a secret society based at the Waco, Texas Baylor University.
One afternoon in 1983, Rand Paul—then an undergraduate at Baylor, today the Tea Party Senator-elect from Kentucky—blindfolded a young co-ed, drove her to a creek near school, and forced her to say, “I worship you Aqua Buddha, I worship you.” The post-adolescent prank transformed into campaign fodder when Paul’s opponent Jack Conway turned the episode into a surreal campaign ad.
Anchor baby n. an American-born child of illegal immigrants.
The unartful term came into vogue this summer as Republicans agitated against the citizenship rights, dating back to the U.S. Constitution, of children born to illegal immigrants. The phrase was likely first used to describe the children of Vietnamese immigrants following the Vietnam War.
Cloture n. the closing of debate in a legislative body; how the Democrats got anything done in Washington in 2010.
When Scott Brown arrived in Washington early this year, the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof lock on the Senate, making cloture the maneuver du jour.
Chickens for checkups n. a form of bartering; the manner in which Americans once acquired medical care.
The candidate in the Nevada Republican primary bested by Sharron Angle, Sue Lowden, suggested a retro approach to curing our ailing health-care system: bartering. “In the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor,” Lowden said, “…that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system.”
Demon sheep n. a sinister politician who pretends to be what he is not; related to the RINO species (Republican in Name Only).
California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina released a howler of a video, quickly dubbed the “ demon sheep” ad, describing an opponent as a “FCINO” (Fiscal Conservative In Name Only, that is) and skewering the rival as not just a wolf, but a demon, in sheep’s clothing.
Hutaree n. a militia group, who describe themselves as “Christian warriors,” which plotted to wage war against the U.S. government and attack law enforcement officials.
Products of Michigan’s fertile soil for the survivalist fringe, the Hutaree sparked national concern in March when their plan to murder a law enforcement official and then attack his funeral was revealed by the FBI.
Journolist n. a cabal of left-wing Washington reporters who conspired to embarrass and attack conservatives; an inane list-serv devoted to the self-promotion of Washington know-it-alls.
Although, it came into existence in 2007, when kinder-wonk Ezra Klein made an email list for fellow policy mavens, the online, members-only discussion group drew fire this summer when Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller published its private correspondence. Media prankster Andrew Breitbart further stirred the pot by offering $100,000 for the list’s complete archive.
Junk n. that which should not be touch by agents from the Transportation Security Administration; when preceding “shot,” a technique to cap an undersea oil well.
Junk proved most versatile as political argot in 2010. In spring, the “ junk shot” offered brief hope to the White House and the people in the Gulf of Mexico when BP said that firing golf balls and other detritus could stop the spewing Deepwater Horizon oil rig. By Thanksgiving, “ Don’t Touch My Junk” became the rallying cry of the traveling masses.
Man up v. to behave in a more appropriately masculine manner.
The teeth-baring challenge of many female candidates during the midterm elections, “ man up” became the taunt for all sorts of male politicians who weren’t making the cut. Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell put her own twist on the exhortation by telling opponent Mike Castle, “This is not a bake-off, get your man-pants on.”
Mama grizzlies n. female conservative politicians with protective instincts and Sarah Palin’s approval.
First coined during the 2008 campaign as a colorful description for her own political philosophy, Sarah Palin pinned the label on fellow Republican women like Nikki Haley and Carly Fiorina during the 2010 campaign. “They rise up on their hind legs when somebody is coming to attack their cubs,” Palin said.
Obamacare n. health-care legislation enacted by the Democrats; see related Hillarycare.
Sometimes placed inside quotations marks, sometimes not, Obamacare is the pejorative name for the health-care plan passed by the Democratic Congress. Republican spinmeisters know from the Clinton years that attaching a name, à la Hillarycare, to a program can help sway public opinion.
Professional Left n. liberals who are not on board with the president’s agenda.
Spitting Mad Robert Gibbs came up with this tidy epithet in August to describe writers and politicians who attack the White House from the left. “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality,” Gibbs huffed.
Quantitative Easing n. the acquisition of government bonds by the Federal Reserve with the aim of keeping long-term interest rates low and goosing investment; the creation of money out of thin air.
Refudiate n. a combination of the words refute and repudiate.
A portmanteau by way of the frontier, this term was given flight by Sarah Palin. So popular, it was named “Word of the Year” by the Oxford American Dictionary. Refudiate outmuscled retweet and vuvuzela for the honor.
Slurpee n. an iced syrupy beverage served at 7-11 convenience stores; a peace offering by President Obama after the Democrats’ midterm shellacking (see below).
During the campaign, Obama liked to joke that the Republicans had driven the national car into a ditch and then decided to sip Slurpees while the Democrats worked to dig the thing out. Once it was over, the White House called for a Slurpee Summit to settle differences. Speaker-to-be John Boehner made it clear he preferred Merlot.
Snorkel v. to perform a lewd sexual act, in some cases, particularly involving former New York Rep. Eric Massa, potentially uninvited.
In March, it was announced that Rep. Eric Massa, Democrat from New York, was under investigation for improper behavior involving young male staffers. Massa offered an amusing, if bizarre self-defense (“I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe”), and provided us with the memorable image of a naked Rahm Emanuel cornering him in the Congressional gym. Soon, tales of Massa’s antics—described by some as assault—surfaced, including an account of Massa, a former Navy officer, attempting to “ snorkel” a sleeping sailor.
Shellacking n. a major defeat or rebuke.
George W. Bush had his own word for what happened to Congressional Republicans in 2006: “ thumping.” Obama gave that description a makeover when he declared that his own party’s debacle in the House and Senate amounted to a “ shellacking.”
Second Amendment remedies n. resorting to firearms when threatened by a tyrannical government; an election-season boast from the lunatic fringe.
Sharron Angle, the Nevada Republican who hinted that she was packing heat during the fall campaign, outshot the competition when she told a radio interviewer that Americans might have to take up arms to brush back the overbearing government in Washington. “If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out,” Angle said.
WikiLeaks n. a website devoted to revealing secrets; an indiscriminate, megalomaniacal operation both applauded and condemned by reporters.
It was the year of WikiLeaks, starting with its distribution of a video from the Iraq War showing American soldiers firing on Iraqi civilians and journalists from a helicopter. Then, the secret-sharing group dropped documents related to the American effort in Afghanistan, only to further put American diplomats in a pickle by dumping State Department cables.
Did we miss your favorite new word? Leave it in the comments.
Samuel P. Jacobs is a staff reporter at The Daily Beast. He has also written for The Boston Globe, The New York Observer, and The New Republic Online.