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Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes: Decoding the Jargon, Slang, and Bluster of American Political Speech Paperback – September 2, 2014

18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1611686036 ISBN-10: 1611686032

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“One would have thought that writing a gripping treatment of the semi-secret slang and code of the DC scene was impossible, but McCutcheon and Mark have done it.  Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes should be the accompanying text for House of Cards or Scandal. Brilliantly written and fun.”―Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and contributor to MSNBC

“Words matter. Especially when tumbling from the mouths of politicians, words can edify and distort, engage and enrage, delight and depress―but the differences are lost on most of us. Until now. Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark decode the clutter in an extraordinarily accessible and informative book that belongs on the desk of any politically minded reader. It’s my b.s. translator.”―Ron Fournier, senior political columnist and editorial director of National Journal

"Dog-whistles, Walkbacks and Washington Handshakes will not be the last book written on political language, because political language will remain as irritating, fascinating, obfuscatory and dishonest as ever. But until the next book comes along, this one will reassure the cynics, anger the idealists, encourage a healthy skepticism and amuse those readers comfortable with the knowledge that nothing has changed and nothing will change.” ―Henry Allen, Wall Street Journal

“[A]n excellent field guide to the double-talk and weasel words that anyone following the world of politics has to wade through every day.” ―Santa Fe New Mexican

Review

“In your hands is a guide through the thicket, a machete with which to cut your way through the jungle of rhetoric . . .This volume may prove a life saver.” (From the foreword by Jeff Greenfield)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: ForeEdge (September 2, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611686032
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611686036
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #347,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Nell M. Benton on August 23, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With this book in hand, I see decoding political speeches and ads the hot new Washington parlor game. The terms are ones I used to read over or roll my eyes and move on. Now I know the origin of the term, sterling examples of the term in action, and a great feel for how politics is really conducted. Now I need to decide whether it goes on my political shelf, my comedy shelf, or my linguistics shelf.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Cohen on November 18, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
FIrst and foremost, this book is fun. It's certainly to good to have all this political jargon assembled and explained, but Chuck and David have made it entertaining through and through, taking an approach that makes it a lot more appealing than most reference books. Recommended to those who want to keep up with the latest political conversations, and also those who live and die with this stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mike from Seattle on November 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
Insightful, entertaining and informative
This is the book to read if you want a grounding in how Washington D.C. ticks.
The authors waste no time describing their subject matter. The third paragraph states “Politics brims with over achievers, preeners and boasters”. Having established the overarching description of the assorted personalities found in Washington D.C., the authors further segregate these various personalities into 40 personality types—varying from Bed-Wetter (a worrywart) to Wise men (generally pragmatists with many years of experience of the scene). The authors give examples of the various personalities with foot notes tying a name/type to an activity or person. For example, a person that fits the description of Wise man might be Clark Clifford because he has served four Democratic presidents and was Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of Defense. Whereas the label “bed-wetter” was used by the Wall Street Journal in August 2012 to describe a Republican Caucus that concluded Romney couldn’t win with Paul Ryan on the ticket.
Having described the personality types, backed up with documented examples, the authors go on to describe how the various personalities address issues and each other. The English language is the worse for it. I think, though, that the average American voter doesn’t consider the banter and insults that go on in the Capital. Thus, the behavior patterns and attitudes (example: “With All Due Respect, I Deeply Regret Holding You in Minimum High Regard”). What an Insulting attitude! But, it is part of Washington D.C. lexicon.
After we have been exposed to the many types of characters that make up the Beltway, we are shown how messages and themes are formulated and distributed to the many different audiences among “The American People”.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tara deCamp on November 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
This book serves as an excellent field guide to the jargon of American politics. The authors brilliantly blend veteran knowledge of the political sphere with wit to entertainingly demonstrate the insincerity and baffling nature of modern political language. It truly shines in the history, etymology, current uses, shocking examples, and amusing commentary provided below each term.

Here are some select entries:

Attack Dog: A political type who's obviously willing to utter scathingly partisan things - a spokesman, insult comic, and source of blogosphere cacophony rolled into one.
The Good Old Days: Nostalgia for earlier eras in American politics, which in reality weren't always that great. Good old days recollections can take on an old-timers' get-off-my-lawn flavor.
"I Want to Spend More Time With My Family": The all-purpose euphemistic excuse for someone who's departing a job under a cloud of criminal or ethical suspicion but doesn't want to reveal that.
My Good Friend: A politician's term, usually spoken on the House or Senate floors, for someone they actually can't stand.
Opening Statements: Mini-speeches delivered by members of Congress at committee hearings while witnesses are forced to sit by mute.
Walk-Back: Attempts by politicians and press handlers to limit the damage done by dumb, embarrassing, and stupid statements. It's a politely euphemistic way to address the subject of lying or deception without having to use those rather unseemly words.
Washington handshake: Greeting somebody while looking over his or her shoulder to see if there could be a more important person in the room.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Mannes on November 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What a great, fun book. Words are important. Understanding the vocabulary is important to de-mystifying the process of politics. Every profession has its jargon, politics is no different. But understanding how politics really works is important to everyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James Banzer on February 10, 2015
Format: Paperback
Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs and Washington Handshakes; Decoding the Jargon, Slang and Bluster of American Political Speech is pure delight for the political junkie. That many words in the title may seem a bit much. But face it. Since politicians love to talk, it would follow that a book about their unique language has a long-winded title. Chuck McCutcheon and David Mack cover a range of linguistic terms the average person would not likely comprehend without reading the book.

This is a good book to keep close to the television remote that is used to switch back and forth between CSPAN and CSPAN2. In addition to defining inside the Washington beltway jargon, the compilation is highly entertaining. McCutcheon and Mack sprinkle definitive explanations with snippets of things that have happened in the District of Columbia over the years.

It would seem to be an appropriate read for anyone who might benefit from a crash course in Washington lingo. The book is strikingly non-partisan. Harsh criticism of politicians on the left is balanced with equal treatment of those on the right. It's difficult to perceive any political leanings that might be harbored by the authors. There doesn't seem to be any agenda here other than to expose silly speak.
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