Primus Mootry column: An abbreviated glossary of political and governmental newspeak | Columns


“Newspeak” is the term used by George Orwell in his classic novel, “1984.” Over the years, the word has become “doublespeak,” meaning double talk. It’s what 18th century Native Americans called speaking with forked tongue.

Since the election of Barack Obama over eight years ago, we have been awash in such language. Birtherism for example, not only meant Obama may not have been born in America, but I suspect it was also code for “the other,” or the N word.

It is also a new word, invented to describe a circumstance that did not previously exist. Donald Trump popularized it in his fabled search for proof that Obama was not born in Hawaii.

Trump claimed he sent a special team to that state to investigate and, he said, “you would not believe what they are finding.” After Trump’s mysterious team found nothing, Obama released his official birth certificate. Once Obama released the certificate, without apology, Trump declared victory.

That’s just one example of how doublespeak works. For many, the allegation itself becomes the reality. There are still, for example, millions who believe Obama was not born in America and, further, that he is a Muslim. Nice work, Donald.

Anyway, I thought it might be useful to offer a few definitions of words that have cropped up in our current, toxic, political and governmental discourse. In so doing, I have taken some liberties that may offend some. My apologies if you are in that group. Here are my made-up definitions:

• A presidential Tweet — fake news.

• Emolument — I dunno. Sounds like some sort of ointment used by foreign powers to relieve the itch of U.S. governmental officials and political leaders.

• First lady — she may be the first to be deported by her husband because she reportedly earned U.S. money without an HB-1 Visa. If true, that’s against immigration law.

• Dreamers — children of immigrants who thought they were U.S. citizens because they were born here.

• Immigrants — people from other countries who naively believed the immortal words etched in Lady Liberty’s pedestal.

• Islamophobia — if you happen to be my color, I suggest you not wear a turban when boarding a commercial jet.

• Mar-A-Lago — Trump’s palatial private property in Palm Beach, Florida, now commonly known as The Winter White House.

• “My distinguished colleague” — the introductory words used by partisan members of Congress before they call a member of the other party a dirty rat.

• The new normal — an abnormal state of affairs engaged in by so many they think it’s normal.

• Fake news — a 12:06 a.m. presidential Tweet: “Kovfefe.”

• Duty to Warn — a report by Yale psychiatrists suggesting that our president is kovfefe. It doesn’t help that he has the nuclear codes.

• Oligarchy — a government ruled by rich people, military men, and family members masquerading as common folk.

• Alternate fact — a twisted truth.

• Witch hunt — I can’t figure this one. Why would the president suggest such an attack on Kelly Anne Conway?

• Recusal — the act of pretending not to know anything about anything or anybody while knowing everything about everything and everybody.

• Hacking — in the 21st century, cyber is the new face of war.

• Climate change — a condition many confuse with weather.

• Pundit — a person who knows everything about nothing.

• Clean coal — there is no such thing.

• Make America Great Again — a slogan used by those who believe America is no longer great.

• Tax return — a needlessly complex financial report designed to be seen only by the IRS and those who prepared it.

• “Let me be clear …” — words politicians use just before they begin speaking in foreign tongues.

• “There is no there there” — probably meant to refer to a smoking gun, or aha! moment. Otherwise, it means, there is nothing of significance there.

• NATO — a group of nations who believe it’s one for all, all for one, except Russia, possibly in the not-too-distant future, the United States of America.

• Kleptocracy — a government ruled by a close-knit group of corrupt thieves.

Each of these words or phrases is in frequent use by politicians and journalists. Some are already in the dictionary. Admittedly, as I suggested earlier, I’ve taken some liberties with my definitions. It would be all in fun if things weren’t so serious, and the language of today’s politics and government were not so toxic.

Have a nice day.

Anderson resident Primus Mootry is a retired school teacher. His column appears Wednesdays in The Herald Bulletin.

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