When you sit and read too many blogs and too many articles on electoral politics, you start to notice something: certain words and phrases are contagious. Each election cycle, wherever it occurs either offers up new expressions or pushes them to the forefront of the public mind. This seems to prove that human beings have a group mentality when it comes to language and tend to emulate each other. It is an interesting question about how the Internet is impacting this process. I would hypothesise the rapid communication flows and network structure of new communication technology will catalyse the spread of specific terminology.
I thought it would be fun to try and compile a list of election words and phrases over the next few months. These don't just have to be from the US, but from anywhere in the world. I'm going to start now with a few ideas, but I will try to update it with new suggestions as they occur to me. If anyone has any other ideas, do please leave them in the comments section or mail me.
Without further ado, here are some ideas to get us started.
Blue state and red state. Hard though it is to believe now, but this distinction only appeared in the 2000 election. Prior to that TV networks had mixed and matched their coverage between parties and colours. Due to the polarized electorate in 2000, and the fact that the election was contested for so long, the colours that were being used during that election cycle stuck (for examples: here, here and here). See also purple states.
Kool Aid (as in "drinking the kool aid"). This term originates from the 60s culture when the Kraft-produced soft drink was used as a way of taking acid. Generically, the phrase (which is commonly associated with Fox News's Bill O'Reilly) means anyone who believes fervently and unquestioningly in something. During the 2008 election cycle the term Kool Aid drinkers has frequently been applied to Obama supporters (for example: here, here and here).
Throw someone under a train. This is a new one on me, at least as part of the day-to-day lexicon of politics. Throwing someone under a train involves destroying the reputation of a former ally or friend for one's own political benefit. I first heard it in the immediate aftermath of Obama race speech, where some accused him of "throwing his grandmother under a train in order save his own political skin". It has now become ubiquitous, although there are some variations out there, such as "from a train" and "under a bus" (for example: here and here, and here for the variation).
Safe, legal and rare (Hillary Clinton's view on abortion). This soundbite was suggested by my colleague Chris Boerl. It was first used by Clinton in a 2005 speech to mark the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, in which she appealed for common ground to be found in the polarising abortion debate. Chris reckons it will become an important soundbite for whichever Democrat wins the nomination as it offers a way of triangulatin this key issue (Original use here, although, Chris's prediction is somewhat dented here, with an account of Obama attacking the position).