You Keep Using That Word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.


October 11, 2012 by rebelwithalabelmaker

I am trying to follow the American election.  I was going to try to watch the presidential debates a few days ago, but I didn’t because Anthony is in grade 2 now and I’m really trying to drum into him that after a certain age people are too old to interrupt every time someone else tries to talk.  Also, the only part of politics that I could find that the boys would like is that one time when Obama was being interviewed and he suddenly reached out his hand and killed a fly lighting fast.  Like he was a ninja.  Hold on to that memory, it will be important.

I am trying to follow the policy ideas.  It can be hard to follow — especially the financial stuff.  I think maybe math has changed since I was in high school.  Either that or one of those guys is running for president of the United States, and the other one is running for Minister of Magic.  Complete with house elves, which of course you can’t call House Elves.  According to American Friend not Named Mick Who Understands Politics, you have to use code words in politics.  Like if you mean “House Elves” you have to say “the 47%”.

To be fair, that quote is from a leaked clip everyone is playing, and nobody is playing the corresponding leaked clip of Obama.  Either because it’s from 1998, as everyone is pointing out, or … BECAUSE IT’S BORING AND HE SAYS NOTHING BAD IN IT.

Obama says the “trick is figuring out do we structure government systems that … facilitate some redistribution … to make sure that everybody’s got a shot”.  I totally thought that hidden in the “…” parts there must be “and kill all the kittens” but it’s not there.

What’s with the “it’s from 1998” stuff?  That’s like if you have a video of me saying not to kill kittens and I say “oh, but I said that when I was tired and I didn’t know what I was saying” forgetting that KILLING KITTENS IS A BAD THING!!!

American Friend not Named Mick says that it’s all in the language people use.  Like “Family values” means “I Hate Gay People”.  Or “your time is up, Mr. Romney” means “by all means, continue your fabulous imitation of a punctured set of bagpipes”.

And “redistribution” of course, means… well, actually it means redistribution.  Which apparently you have to pretend is a bad idea.

Here is what I think.  I think if you are running for office, you should write a book that outlines exactly what you believe in using real words that mean the things that words actually mean.  Even though it would be a policy book, it should be not boring, and should include lots of stories so I don’t give up reading halfway through.  Then you should make it easy for me to get that book by appearing randomly all over my home city like a plague of gophers.

Me:  I think we should choose our leaders based on their superpowers.  Like Obama with the fly, and Ryan Meili with the not-boring policy book and his Seven Places At Once Superpower.

Gary:  What?

Me:  That guy is everywhere.  Haven’t you noticed?  His campaign slogan should be “Ryan Meili for NDP provincial leader — all seven of him”.

Gary:  You are reading the book though, right?  You aren’t basing all of your entire political worldview on alleged magic?

Me:  You know the whole Republican financial plan is based on that approach, right?


Me:  I see your point.

Okay, spoiler alert.  Meili totally says in his book that the priority should be the health of people and communities, and everyone should have their basic needs met.

Me:  Are you allowed to say that?

Gary:  Apparently.  He gets a lot of support.

Me:  Did you know all this stuff about social determinants of health?

Gary:  Umm.  What did you think my PhD was in?

Me:  Community Health and Episiotomies.

Apparently, Episiotomies and Epidemiology are not the same thing and there is overlap only in a very small set of very specific situations.  In my defence, Gary did say that he chose a PhD that was a “natural extension of a surgery career”, so you could see how I got confused.

All seven of Ryan have decided to run for leadership of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party, which I have to explain for a minute because a lot of my readers are American.  The NDP are not remotely new, but they are democratic (but so are all the parties except the Harper Party).

Think of the NDP as like the Democrats, but with balls.

Especially Ryan, who says stuff like “my top priority is a socially and environmentally sustainable economy … greater equality for all”.

In case something catchier is needed, I am working on alternative campaign slogans.

“Ryan Meili — his book is not boring.”

“Ryan Meili — talks using real words.”

“Ryan Meili — against killing kittens.  Has never fired a live kitten at riot police using a catapult.”

Gary:  Um, has he fired a dead kitten?

Me:  Should I change it to “stuffed”?

Gary:  A stuffed dead kitten?

Me:  No, like teddy bears.  It was street theatre, to keep the mood of the protest light.

Gary:  Just to clarify, are you trying to help?  Just so I know.

Mick from Meadville says that “dead kittens” is not a good term to have in a political platform, almost as bad as “redistribution”. I am thinking I should shy away from kittens entirely, because it sounds to me like the kind of thing that would be a secret code word.

We really need a political translation dictionary.  I am starting it.

Family Values:  We Hate Gays

Rainbow:  We Like …  Acronyms, mostly, but also Gays.  And Lesbians, Bisexual people, Transgendered people, Queer people, Unicorns, and people who are confused — about their sexuality, gender, or all these acronyms.  And Heterosexuals, of course, who for the most part seem very nice.

Pride:  We like all the above named groups and also the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Tea Party:  We want the government to tax less, spend less, and stop insisting that the common understanding of the word “tea bagging” is not what we think it is.  And don’t get us started on what “Santorum” means and doesn’t mean.  If you people can’t use the Internet responsibly, we will take it away.

Defence:  Attack.

News:  News and/or Fox and/or the Daily Show.

Okay commenters, what am I missing?

6 thoughts on “You Keep Using That Word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

  1. molly says:

    i do believe that the time for a dictionary of political terms is long overdue – where is ambrose bierce when you need him?

  2. Curtis says:

    This post made me laugh out loud in class.

  3. Erica S says:

    You should watch the debate between Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart! It was so much better than the Presidential one (which I did not watch, just the highlights) but they actually talked about issues and well! Jon Stewart refers to the Republicans as living on “bullsh*t” mountain. Similiar to the magic you speak of!

  4. lee says:

    Just an observation on words. They are very slippery things. When I was a kid, “decadent” meant essentially the same thing as “putrid”. Now it means essentially the same thing as “delicious”. And “gay” meant cheerful.

    I have noticed that there are people of a conservative mindset (which says little about political affiliation) who believe that there is a right grammar and a right meaning for words. You find the latter in a dictionary. But the people who make dictionaries say that the meaning of words is merely defined by how people use them. It appears that when you get deeply into a subject, at least in the subject area, you adopt a more liberal mindset.

    But whatever their political affiliation, political operatives are devoted to the notion that words are powerful and must be chosen to hide the underlying truth of whatever idea is being advocated.

  5. Wendy J says:

    My current favorites are:
    – freedom = legislation that creates increasingly unconstitutional surveillance of our own people to prevent bad things like terrorism
    – terrorist = a guy whose values or opinions disagree with the leaders’ (environmental terrorists are currently a big issue in Canada)
    – omnibus bill = a great bill for pushing your legislation ahead without that pesky democratic debate or oversight. Useful for pursuing freedom and limiting the power of terrorist

  6. I’m just wondering, do you have a copy of that magic policy book that I could borrow to read?

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