In So Many Words

Blame Maggie. It started with her.

Maggie’s the youngest of my newsroom co-workers, a “Millennial” who’s endured so much wordplay from me that it’s probably raised her blood irony levels to the danger point. Even so, she’s quick with a phrase, as I rediscovered while explaining the City Council’s decision to urge a “No” vote on a statewide measure.

“It’s not exactly an endorsement, since they want folks to vote against it,” I told her.

“Oh,” she said. “So they’re de-dorsing it?”


And the glossary grew a little richer.

If you know me at all, you know I love words. I like hearing the bubbles of “discombobulate” or the whisper and ring of “machine,” like a Hollywood blade being drawn from a sheath. There’s a rhythm to “majestic,” a tease to “sinuous,” even a quick chuckle in Jim Henson’s “Muppet-ational.”

And the only thing more fun than luxuriating in words is creating them.

It’s a growth industry, to say the least. However rapidly the language expands, there always seems to be another word or phrase needed – and soon, ready and waiting. That song you can’t get rid of? An earworm. That clever comeback you thought of after the argument was over? Staircase wit. Heather and I have even coined a few of our own here and there, such as “Swiss Army doctor” (a multi-competent physician), “egg ice” (an eggshell-thin ice sheet over visible water) and “try-g’nite,” a goodnight wish between two people who doubt their ability to sleep.

Well, with Maggie’s “de-dorse,” I began to wonder: what other vital areas of the political conversation deserve a term and lack one?

So, I threw it open to Facebook. And with the help of my friends and relations, I think we’ve got 2012 covered.

Among the best so far:

  • Advalanche (Self): The barrage of political mailings, phone calls and TV ads endured by a swing state resident. If I don’t get out from under the presidential advalanche soon, I’m moving back to California.
  • Sourcery (Mike Zimmer): The act of claiming an unnamed study in support of a highly disputable statement. Through artful sourcery, no one realized his “Stanford-backed” claim of 85 million illegal immigrants was actually based on the high score of the campus pinball machine.
  • Anecbloat (Ross Shingledecker): To pad out a political speech with stories from “a woman I met in Ohio” or “a father I talked to in Florida” that may be poignant, but never actually support or challenge a particular position. By the time he finished his anecbloat, I knew everything about hard-working Midwesterners but nothing about his views on Social Security.
  • Camfeign (Self): To run for office on principles that bear no resemblance to the ones you actually hold. His heartfelt declarations for the American rubber duck industry were shown to be merely camfeign promises after his investment in Peking Duck, Inc. was revealed.
  • Factsify (Mom): To say something so often and so strongly that it sounds true. After three months of relentless hammering, the senator had factsified her opponent’s misdeeds until even he believed he had slept with a rubber duck.
  • Hoodlink (R. Shingledecker): To either 1) write a blog post or online news piece containing a hotlink to a seemingly reputable source, inaccurately summarizing the post to support your conclusions or 2) pepper your piece with so many hotlinks that your argument seems irrefutable. That piece was a complete hoodlink; it had 37 Web links and half of them were Rickrolls!
  • Tarisma (Leslie Boyd): The ability to tar an opponent with negative connotations in a manner that seems charming and not slimy. Oh, I know he’s implied the Congressman scatters razor blades in preschool for fun, but he’s such a gentleman about it; how can you dislike that kind of tarisma?

If you have ideas of your own to contribute, I’m all ears. Send an email to with the subject “Brave New Words” and share the words you think are missing from the political scene. (Well, leaving out the ones like “integrity,” “fairness” and “trust,” of course.)

Done right, maybe we can enrich the process. Or at least have a little fun with it.

And anyone who says otherwise has my full de-dorsement.