A Conservative-to-English Lexicon, 2nd edition

Preface to the Second Edition

The popularity and inadequacy of the First Edition led its readers to submit many terms which had unfortunately been overlooked. While still far from complete, the Second Edition (I hope) will make far more Conservative speech comprehensible to non-residents of the conservative echo chamber.

But before listing the terms new to the Second Edition, other comments motivate me to say a few words about the origin and intentions of the Lexicon.

Origin of the Lexicon. While researching “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party“, I discovered many examples of language drift among conservatives. The great majority of the new usages are transparent, and can be easily understood by readers without my help. (When, for example, Paul Ryan says “inner city” he means “black”.) But confusion became likely when the drifting terms began to interact.

One example in particular required unpacking, because it was key to the Tea/Confederate identification: Many in the so-called Tea Party talk about their “Second Amendment rights”, by which they mean their right to the means to resist or even overthrow the government of the United States, if it should become “tyrannical”.  By itself, this seems a reasonable — some might even say laudable — goal, one in line with their identification with the original Tea Party protest against the tyranny of George III.

However, when I then looked into the current conservative usage of tyranny, I discovered that it has virtually nothing to do with George III, or even with the more recent Hitler/Stalin models that most Americans picture when they hear the word. Instead, tyranny refers to the implementation of any progressive policy at all — ObamaCare, immigration reform, cap and trade, taxation with representation, and many others — even when that policy is enacted via the constitutional process of our duly elected representatives passing legislation. Tyranny even includes any proposed gun control measures, no matter how slight, which completes a vicious cycle: We can’t have gun control, because we will need our guns to overthrow the tyranny of gun control.

Fully translated, then, the Tea Party’s Second Amendment rhetoric amounts to: We need the means to resist or overthrow the government of the United States, in case liberals win too many elections and start implementing the agenda they were elected on.

That sounds a lot different.

Intention of the Lexicon. Some of the First Edition’s commenters seemed to be interpreting the Lexicon as a work of mockery, born out of frustration, bitterness, or anger. This response was independent of ideology: Some conservatives felt themselves victims of a bitter, angry attack, while some liberals expressed satisfaction with an expression of their own frustration and bitterness, which I presumably shared.

This is a misinterpretation. The Lexicon should be read as a light-hearted presentation of a serious message. If, while reading, you find yourself feeling bitter or angry — either at me or at conservatives — I recommend taking a walk. The extreme strain of conservatism found in America today is only one of life’s many absurdities. If the absurdity of life makes you angry, let me suggest that you are suffering from what the Buddhists call attachment. Life is life; your anger is irrelevant to it. (If you are monotheistic, let me put it differently: God clearly tolerates life’s absurdity; you should too.)

However, the light-heartedness of the Lexicon doesn’t mean that it is nothing but a joke. A non-bitter, non-angry response of: “Wow, this is way more fucked up than I thought!” — similar, I imagine, to how biologists felt when they discovered the platypus — is completely appropriate, and mirrors the attitude I had while compiling the Lexicon.

Seriousness of the Lexicon. The light-heartedness of the Lexicon should not be misread as mere mockery, in which the mocker attaches to his target whatever negative images might stick. The Lexicon is serious. The intention of the definitions is to match the actual usage of terms within the conservative echo chamber, thereby interpreting conservative statements in ways that are more coherent, more comprehensible, and more likely to be true than when those statements are interpreted in standard English.

For example, the frequently uttered syllables, “Obama is a Marxist” are gibberish if Marxist is interpreted in the literal English sense of “a proponent of the philosophy of Karl Marx”. Actual Marxists believe that Obama represents their eternal enemy: the Wall Street capitalists. Just this week, I found this Obama-resenting comment in The Socialist Worker:

If liberals learn anything from the bitter taste Obamaism left in their mouths, it should be that ‘progressive’ and ‘populist’ talk from politicians is cheap–especially when they’re running for office.

However, if you look at the full usage of Marxist among conservatives and consider what all the people they classify as Marxists have in common — Elizabeth Warren, Jim Wallis, Thomas Piketty, Paul Krugman, Harry Reid, anybody involved in Occupy Wall Street, etc. — you get the definition I presented in the First Edition: “one who regrets the increasing concentration of wealth.” Using that definition, “Obama is a Marxist” is coherent, comprehensible, and probably true.

This combination of light-heartedness and seriousness has a fine tradition, going back at least to Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary from 1906. Look, for example at Bierce’s definition of aboriginies: “Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered country.” Or peace: “In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.”

Bierce was not simply trying to be funny. He was pointing to incongruities between the definitions in a standard dictionary and the actual usage of words in his era. So am I.

Terms New to the Second Edition

The Second Edition incorporates all the terms found in the First Edition and adds the following:

Activist judge. A judge who applies the Constitution and other laws, rather than the Bible or the Constitution written by the Founding Fathers.

Amnesty. The basic English meaning is unchanged since Bierce: “The state’s magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish.” In conservative usage, amnesty is an abandonment of all moral standards if applied to undocumented immigrants, but “makes perfect sense” when applied to corporate profits held off-shore to avoid taxes. To spin amnesty positively, use holiday. Example: a tax holiday, but not an immigration holiday.

Bankrupt. Requiring taxes that the wealthy do not want to pay. Usage: “The government is bankrupt.”

Celebrity. A disparaging term applied to a liberal who can draw a crowd. Usage: Barack Obama “is the biggest celebrity in the world.” Not to be confused with a politician who is popular in Real America, like Sarah Palin, or with statesmen like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronald Reagan.

Class warfare. When the 99% fight back against the 1%. Usage: “Obama’s priority is class warfare.  That’s why he relentlessly denounces job creators as ‘millionaires and billionaires.’ That’s why he demands that they be punished with higher tax rates.”

Collateral damage. Humans whose deaths would rattle the conscience of a nation not blessed with American exceptionalism.

Common sense. The opinion of the People, as opposed to the opinion of experts who have devoted their lives to studying the subject. See: science, junk science.

Common sense solution. A (usually unspecified) way to make a problem vanish without inconveniencing any job creators or real Americans, or making them pay taxes. Usage: “All across this country, women are standing up and speaking out for common sense solutions.”

Contract. An inviolable pledge, except when made to a union.

Dividing the country. Starting a class war by encouraging the 99% to fight back. Usage: President Obama “won by dividing the country.”

Elite, Elitist. Those who challenge common sense by insisting on facts. Usage: “The power of the knowledge elite does not stem primarily from money, but in persuading, instructing and regulating the rest of society.”

Family. A group of people related by blood to, and under the control of, straight white man wealthy and powerful enough to protect and control them.

Holiday. A temporary suspension of tyranny. Usage: “tax holiday

Illegal immigrants (or illegals). Hispanics. Usage: “the more illegals that vote, the better the Obama administration thinks it will do.”

Impeachable offenses. Anything President Obama does or fails to do.

Impeachment. A means of reversing elections, when voters mistakenly choose Democrats. Established by the Constitution, impeachment requires impeachable offenses.

Junk science. Research not funded by a corporation whose profits depend on the outcome. Examples: climate research not funded by fossil fuel companies, tobacco research not funded by cigarette companies, etc. All you really need to know about the term is that JunkScience.com is run by Steve Milloy, who is also Director of External Policy and Strategy for Murray Energy, the largest privately owned American coal company. Usage: “It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life. I’ve never been for any [greenhouse-gas reducing] scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole [climate change] narrative.” See sound science.

Lucky Ducky. Anyone whose income is low enough to escape the punishment of income tax. Collectively, lucky duckies are known as “the 47%“. Usage: “Who are these lucky duckies? They are the beneficiaries of tax policies that have expanded the personal exemption and standard deduction and targeted certain voter groups by introducing a welter of tax credits for things like child care and education.”

The People (or We the People). All real Americans, considered collectively. Usage: “I believe Owen Hill is one of those future leaders and must be supported by ‘we the people’ to take back our country and to restore our constitution as the law of the land.”

Personhood. A quality shared by fertilized ova and corporations, but not by Afghans, Iraqis, or Pakistanis who become collateral damage. Usage: “Corporations are people, my friend.”

Punishing success. Restoring upper-level tax rates to their levels during the Clinton administration, a dark time of peace and prosperity when no one bothered to become rich because it was too painful. Usage: “If you want to punish successful people, vote for Democrats.” Synonym: punishing job creators. Usage: “We shouldn’t be punishing job creators.”

Rammed through Congress. Passed by majority vote, without granting a extra-constitutional veto power to the conservative minority. Usage: “Senate Democrats rammed through what would later be called ObamaCare … The vote on Monday, in the dead of night, was 60 to 40.”

Rammed (or forced) down the throat of the People. Any government action taken against the will of a majority of real Americans. Usage: “They’re going to do what they have to, the Democrats are, to force this [ObamaCare] down our throats.”

Real America. Rural areas and small towns, where the majority of voters are real Americans. Usage: “the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America.”

Real American. 1. A white conservative Christian born in the United States at least 30 years ago. 2. A typical resident of real America. Usage: “Real Americans do not recognize [Obama] as a president.”

Science. 1. A religion devoted to conquering the world in the name of the No God it worships. Usage: “Science, like God in the Old Testament, behaves jealously against any other religion. So science will say to its followers: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’. If you have any doubts, try asking an audience at a scientific convention to join you in a prayer.” 2. A conspiracy to impose world government through hoaxes like global warming. Usage: “Global warming is not about science, but about politics — that is, about expanding the power of elites using the coercive instruments of government to control the lives of people everywhere.”

Social justice. A plot to turn mainstream Christian denominations Communist. Usage: “I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words.”

Sound science. The opposite of junk science. Coined by The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, “a front group set up by Philip Morris in 1993 … to question the science showing detrimental effects of cigarette smoke.”

States rights. 1. The belief that the 14th Amendment‘s guarantee of “the equal protection of the laws” was never intended to be taken seriously. Usage: “I believe in states’ rights … and I believe that we’ve distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the Constitution to that federal establishment.” — said by Ronald Reagan near the site of the KKK’s Mississippi Burning murders, which were solved by federal investigators after being covered up by local police.

Take back our country. Restoring the dominance of the People. As Hank Williams Jr. sang in “Take Back Our Country“: “Move over little dog, cause the big dog’s moving in.” Usage: “It’s time to take our country back.”

Thug. 1. Young black male. Usage: “Trayvon Martin was a thug. His parents know that, you know that, I know that.” and “The Ferguson thugs aren’t alone. The overwhelming majority of violent crime across America is conducted by young, black males.” 2. An agent of government tyranny who might descend upon real Americans at any moment. Usage: “”jack-booted government thugs [who have] more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.” 3. A union organizer.

Traditional marriage. The type of marriage commonly portrayed in the media when the speaker was a child. Does not include common features of marriage from earlier eras, such as the inability of the wife to own property, the impossibility of divorce (except by act of the Pope), the right of the husband to beat his wife, or the right of the husband to take multiple wives. (Biblical marriage may not have been Adam and Steve, but it was Jacob and Leah and Rachel and Bilhah and Zilpah. Don’t think too hard about why the link also has a picture of a sheep.)

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  • Roger Green  On October 6, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Ah, gotta replace my link to the FIRST iteration with this!

  • admin  On October 6, 2014 at 11:09 am

    A second edition should also include everything from the first edition. This will be a lot more effective all on one linkable page.

    • Russ  On October 6, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      And the link for the 2nd edition is where???????

      • weeklysift  On October 10, 2014 at 10:49 am

        I’m going to make a complete list and post it somewhere updateable and linkable. Future weekly summaries may include a few new words each week. I’m trying to keep this blog reasonably short, so this wasn’t the place.

  • coastcontact  On October 6, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    You might have included “Progressive” and “Liberal”; and do conservatives see the difference? Watching “The Roosevelts” on PBS helped me to define myself as a Progressive.

  • coastcontact  On October 6, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Reblogged this on Coastcontact and commented:
    A well done effort to understand the Tea Party.

  • weeklysift  On October 6, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    In my list of “Marxists”, I should have included Pope Francis.

  • PJ  On October 9, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    “Some conservatives felt themselves victims of a bitter, angry attack, while some liberals expressed satisfaction with an expression of their own frustration and bitterness, which I presumably shared.”

    If there are conservatives reading this blog who feel that their views are being misrepresented, I would love for them to post something that gives a better explaination. Not just a “bitter, angry” counter-attack, but something that lays out the rational and connects the dots so that non-conservatives can follow it.

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