Here at World Lexicography Headquarters, we’ve noticed that politicians, pundits, commenters, and random people on the street adopt a whole different way of speaking when the subject of politics comes up. It can be very confusing, but take courage! We’ve done the work of decoding it all for you. We’ve done our best to write this in a non-partisan way, so that you can pretend we’re supporting your personal point of view, even though we would probably recoil in horror at your personal point of view.
Here are accurate translations of a certain key words and phrases, when used in a political context:
bumper sticker (n.) – a unit of measure indicating depth (or shallowness) of thought. Those who cannot construct or follow cogent arguments typically process their thoughts one bumper sticker at a time, and resent the implication that anything further is required. Bumper stickers are handy markers to identify people not worth discussing politics with.
conformist (n.) – one who fails to conform to your wishes or beliefs. (Contrast to freethinker.)
educate (v.) – to replace critical or independent thought with doctrine or propaganda; to prevent thinking. Usage: “We have to educate the public on why they should support this new proposal through sound bites and bumper stickers.”
the exception that proves the rule (n.) – a magical incantation designed to dismiss data that contradicts one’s theory, without actually considering or acknowledging it or questioning one’s theory. Also a handy marker to identify a dishonest debater. Exceptions do not prove rules.
extremism (n.) – A. Any viewpoint that you disapprove of. B. Any viewpoint that is logically consistent. (Contrast to mainstream or moderate, which both mean “pertaining to any viewpoint that you endorse.”) The label “extremism” can be applied to literally anything, and is a great way to discredit a viewpoint that one finds inconvenient, without the trouble of finding out whether it is true or false.
fascism (n.) – any policy or position of which you disapprove.
freedom (n.) – WLHQ is not actually sure this is still a word, as we have no recent memory of anyone using it who knows what it means. Same goes for rights.
freethinker (n.) – one who conforms to your wishes or beliefs.
insanity (n.) – repeating the most tedious soundbite in politics over and over, and expecting that this time you’re impressing people with something fresh and insightful. Primary usage: “The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” We’ve heard this cliche from every pundit who ever lived. None of them connect it to the point they’re arguing in any meaningful way.
the lessons of history (n.) – self-serving conclusions drawn from what one wishes had happened in the past.
moron (n.) – one who doesn’t agree with you.
robot (n.) – one who refuses to allow you to program his thinking.
racism (n.) – any act of disagreeing with you. It sometimes takes creativity to assert that it’s racist to, say, oppose tariffs on wool imports, but such feats are achieved routinely.
sheep (n.) – one who obstinately refuses to do what you tell him.
sound bite (n.) – a magical incantation designed by superstitious simpletons who wish to win hearts and minds without bothering to frame a valid argument. These do not work, but are a great way to identify people not worth listening to. See also bumper sticker; cf. insanity.
tolerance (n.) – blind, unreasoning hatred of all those deemed less tolerant than oneself (see racism). Held by some to be the ultimate political virtue. The class of people who think it’s an honor to be “tolerated” have yet to be identified.
1984 (n.) – a book by George Orwell. It explains how some words are perverted to take on opposite meanings, in order to make people easier to rule. If you want to speak politics like a pro, it is easier to pretend this book was never written.
Keep this political lexicon handy, and you’ll be able to translate much of what you hear when people around you are discussing politics.