From Publishers Weekly
Not sure who started starve the beast economics, or where the term big cheese came from, or what a Repubocrat is? Not to worry; Barretts savvy guide to political lingo breaks down all the terms anyone could need to understand the D.C. chatterati. Starting with a short introduction by James Carville and Mary Matalin that explains how Washingtons "political Esperanto" evolved from the citys diverse regional loyalties and its "altered perception of reality," the volume defines more than 600 slang words. And though the definitions are clear and easy to understand, the real fun lies in the historical citations, which refer to films and books as often as to newspapers and congressional reports. The citation for juice ("personal or political power or influence, often of a corrupt nature"), for example, contains a quotation from the 1963 JFK biopic PT 109, and the first citation for zoo plane ("an airplane carrying journalists accompanying a traveling politician") comes from Hunter S. Thompsons Fear & Loathing Campaign Trail. Funny and useful, this book makes a good choice for word-lovers and watchdogs alike.
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The range of this delightful little dictionary is defined as "250 years of lively discourse," but most of the liveliness is of recent occurrence, with the entries being drawn primarily from the 1980s and 1990s, if not from the past two or three years. Even for words like mugwump
(first example 1884) and snollygoster
(1846), the editor has found more or less current instances of use.
Each entry contains part of speech, definition, and citations from a range of sources. Other elements that may be included are an etymology, a field label identifying the group or subculture that generally uses the term (for example, Mil. for military), variant forms, usage labels, cross-references, and notes. Much of the slang recorded here is indeed lively and clever. A prepared response to an opponent's anticipated assertion is a prebuttle. A red-headed Eskimo is a bill so precisely targeted that it might benefit only one specific person. A twinkie is someone or something that is appealing but lacking in substance. Velcroid applies to a person who seeks to advance by associating with a more important person. A clothespin vote is one that is cast unenthusiastically for a choice regarded as least objectionable. The idea is "that voters must use a clothespin to protect their noses from the supposed stench of such candidates."
By no means the least interesting part of the dictionary is the series of eight brief essays on topics (such as chads and the -gate suffix) about which Barrett felt compelled to comment at somewhat greater length than his definitions, notes, and etymologies permitted. This is a book to be read and enjoyed, not merely to be taken down from the shelf now and then and briefly consulted, and it is recommended for public and academic libraries. Harold Cordry
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