a resource for non-native speakers of the Conservative language
For an explanation of what the Lexicon is, see the post that introduced it, and the follow-up. The short version is this: Conservatives have begun using English words in ways that diverge from the definitions you might find in a standard dictionary. Just to give one example — there are gobs of others in the definitions below — moving DREAMers to the bottom of the deportation priority list is an example of tyranny, because tyrants are so famous for not arresting people and instead letting them continue living their lives.
OK, one more: People whose incomes are too low to pay income tax are lucky duckies in Conservative-speak; that’s got to be the first time in history that low income was non-satirically considered an example of luck. (In standard English, lucky is a synonym of fortunate, from which we get the word for a bundle of money: a fortune.)
Things get even harder to follow when two or more new usages combine in a single sentence. For example, when conservatives talk about using their Second Amendment rights to defend against tyranny, they mean that if they need to overthrow the government to prevent ObamaCare from extending health insurance to the unworthy, they’re ready.
The definitions below were abstracted from actual examples of conservative usage, many of which I reference. Within the definitions, words in italics refer to the Conservative meanings rather than the English meanings., i.e., the difference between the Constitution the Constitution.
Activist judge. A judge who applies the Constitution and other laws, rather than the Bible or the Constitution written by the Founding Fathers.
American exceptionalism. The belief that the United States is exempt from all legal and moral standards. Example: Waterboarding is a capital crime when done to Americans, but legally and morally acceptable when practiced by Americans.
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.
Appeasement. Hesitating before attacking or overthrowing the unfriendly government of an oil-rich nation.
Balance. 1. Providing Democrats as well as Republicans the opportunity to criticize President Obama. 2. Providing blacks as well as whites the opportunity to indict black culture. Usage: “Fox News is fair and balanced.”
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.
Color-blindness. Fighting racial injustice by refusing to see it, much as an ostrich avoids danger by sticking its head into the sand.
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.”
Confederacy. An early attempt to restore the freedom envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Still an object of nostalgia in the GOP’s southern base.
Constitution. A holy scripture written by the Founding Fathers. Like the Bible, it means whatever conservatives want it to mean, regardless of its actual text. The Constitution, for example, protects corporate personhood, and the near-infinite powers it assigns to Republican presidents vanish when a Democrat takes office. Unlike the real-life Constitution, the Constitution includes the Declaration of Independence, and so really does mention God.
Contract. An inviolable pledge, except when made to a union.
Controversial. An adjective applying to any fact or set of facts that conservatives don’t want to believe. Examples: evolution and climate change. Once facts have been labeled controversial, stating them as facts is evidence of liberal bias.
Dependent on government. Anyone receiving welfare, encompassing retirees, students, and the disabled. Usage: “there are 47 percent … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
Dividing the country. Talking about the concerns of voters other than real Americans. Examples: Starting a class war by encouraging the 99% to fight back, or discussing the effects of racism. 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.”
Europe. A hellish dystopia governed by liberals, where people belong to unions, have guaranteed health care, and earn high wages with long vacations. Soon to be overrun by Muslims. Usage: “I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become.”
Fair. Favoring the wealthy. Usage: “A true free market is always fair.”
Family. A group of people related by blood to, and under the control of, a straight white man wealthy and powerful enough to protect and control them.
Family Farm. Any piece of land controlled by a single family, no matter how vast it might be. This is how Paul Ryan can say that an estate tax that only applies to estates over $5 million “hits the little guy — like the small business and the family farm.”
Fascism. An insult with no meaningful content, similar to “bastard” or “asshole”. The previously well established Mussolini/Hitler sense of the term — a militarist, nativist, corporatist style of totalitarianism claiming to restore a nation to the greatness of its mythic past — is now archaic, having been successfully jammed by tangential usages like Islamo-fascism and oxymorons like liberal fascism. Usage: “The quintessential liberal fascist isn’t an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade-school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.”
Founding Fathers. Loosely based on the American generational cohort that fought the Revolution and wrote the Constitution, the conservative Founding Fathers are heroes of a great mythic past constructed by pseudo-historians like David Barton. Divinely inspired, the Founding Fathers intended to create a non-denominational Christian theocracy, but inexplicably failed to mention God in the Constitution. They were implacably opposed to Big Government, even as they were writing a constitution that vastly extended the powers of the national government beyond those laid out in the previous Articles of Confederation. They “worked tirelessly” to end slavery, while owning hundreds of slaves themselves, and without actually ending slavery until long after they were all dead.
Free market. A system of decision-making based on the only fair principle: one dollar, one vote.
Freedom. 1. The ineffable quality that exempts the United States from all moral standards. (See American exceptionalism). Usage: “They hate our freedom.” 2. The right of the powerful to use their power as they see fit. Usage: “The minimum wage is a freedom killer.” 3. The right of job creators to use public infrastructure without paying taxes, or to exploit common resources (like air, water, or public land) without regulation. Example: Cliven Bundy.
Freedom of religion. The right of conservative Christians to shape society and define social acceptability. Intended by the Founding Fathers only to protect expressions of religion, not atheism or Islam.
Freedom of speech. 1. The right of a conservative to speak and write publicly without criticism. (See persecution.) Synonym: First Amendment rights. Example: Sarah Palin’s objection in 2008 to the characterization of her charge that Barack Obama was “paling around with terrorists” as “negative campaigning”. “If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations, then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.” While no one had disputed Palin’s right to say what she said, the fact that she faced criticism for it violated her freedom of speech. 2. In election campaigns, the right of the rich to drown out all competing voices. Usage: “Citizens United gives freedom of speech back to the People.”
God. Jehovah, the father of Jesus, as revealed by a literal reading of the Bible. Non-Christians do not believe in God, but in other supernatural beings like Allah. Some liberals claim to believe in God, but they use the word incorrectly.
Hate. Criticism of conservative ideas or disputation of facts alleged by conservatives. See persecution.
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. Failure to make use of impeachment may necessitate “Second Amendment remedies”.
Indoctrination. Teaching historical or scientific facts that are controversial.
Innocent human life. The unborn, who possess souls of infinite worth. At birth, a child inherits the soul-value of his parents, which — if they are black or poor — does not amount to much. Consequently, abortion in the United States is a moral crisis equivalent to the Holocaust, while our third-worldish infant mortality rate (34th in the world, just behind Cuba) is no big deal.
Institutionalized racism. Racial advantages and disadvantages explicitly written into the law, like Jim Crow. Other embedded racial advantages, like legacy admissions to Ivy League schools or the extra-zealous policing of black neighborhoods, are just the way things are. Usage: “Today the system and philosophy of institutionalized racism identified by Dr. King no longer exists.”
Job. An expression of generosity by a job creator, who allows a small amount of wealth to trickle down to a person who does exactly what he’s told. As John Galt told workers at the Rearden factory: “The standard of living of that [medieval] blacksmith is all that your muscles are worth; the rest is a gift from Hank Rearden.”
Jobs bill. A cut in taxes or regulations for job creators. Usage: “If lawmakers are really serious about creating jobs, they should simply repeal ObamaCare.”
Job creator. A wealthy person, who may or may not be an employer, and who may even have become wealthy by firing people or shipping jobs overseas. Usage: “Let’s cut taxes for job creators.” Does not apply to public works, public schools, or any other government program, no matter how many Americans such a program might productively employ.
Judicial activism. When activist judges rule against corporate interests or white supremacy, or in favor of separating Church from State.
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.
Liberal media bias. The fading tendency of certain portions of the journalistic establishment to require supporting facts before promoting a conspiracy theory. For an example of the frustration this causes conservatives, consider the following quote from Jonah Goldberg shortly before the 2012 election: “If you want to understand why conservatives have lost faith in the so-called mainstream media, you need to ponder the question: Where is the Benghazi feeding frenzy?”
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.”
Marxist. One who regrets the increasing concentration of wealth. Unrelated to any theories contained in the writings of Karl Marx. Example: Pope Francis. Usage: “Elizabeth Warrren, who has almost confessed to her Marxist views”. (Synonyms: communist, socialist, liberal.)
Objective. Adjective describing a person (especially a journalist) who tells it like it is.
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.”
Persecution. 1. Denying conservatives the special rights they believe they are entitled to. Example: The War on Christmas, in which conservative Christians are persecuted if they are not allowed to dominate all public space for the month of December. 2. Criticism directed at conservatives. Example: If a conservative says something racist and you point that out, you are persecuting him. (See freedom of speech.) 3. Enforcing laws broken by conservatives. Example: Dinesh D’Souza. 4. Limiting the privileges of privileged groups.
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.”
Political correctness. 1. The bizarre liberal belief that whites, men, straights, Christians, the rich, and other Americans in positions of privilege should treat less privileged people with respect, even though such people have no power to force them to. 2. Avoiding offense to a group unworthy of regard. Example: Saying “Happy Holidays” to avoid offending non-Christians is politically correct. Saying “Merry Christmas” to avoid offending Christians is not.
Politicizing. When a particularly dramatic or tragic event demonstrates how wrong conservatives have been, a liberal who points that out or proposes new policies to prevent future tragedies is politicizing the event. Correct usage: After the Sandy Hook school shooting led to calls for tighter gun laws, Rush Limbaugh said: “You’ve got a horrible event here, and they’re already looking to politicize it.” Incorrect usage: any application to 9-11. The Bush administration’s massive response to 9-11 was not politicization.
Poor. Lacking in gumption or virtue, undeserving, black.
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.”
Racism. Calling attention to racial injustice with an intention to rectify it. Also called “playing the race card”. (See color-blindness.) Example: the Fox News commentator who said, “You know who talks about race? Racists.” Also see institutional racism.
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.”
Rammed through Congress. Passed by majority vote, without granting an extra-constitutional veto 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.”
Rape. 1. A liberal myth used to persecute men who get sex through “consensual conquest“. 2. An excuse made up by women who want to murder their babies. 3. The exceedingly rare act the previous usages are based on, i.e., sex acts committed by thugs, Bill Clinton, and other moral degenerates. When using rape in this sense, it’s important to add a qualifying adjective like real or legitimate.
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.”
Religion. Christianity, not including degraded liberal variants that accept evolution or gay rights. Sometimes qualified as “real religion” or “true religion” to differentiate from false religions like science.
Religious. Having to do with religion, i.e., Christian.
Religious freedom. 1. The right of religious people to ignore laws they don’t like. 2. The right of public officials to implement their religious views rather than the law. 3. The right of a religious majority to use public resources to promote their religion.
Science. 1. A false 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.”
Second Amendment rights. The right of whites, Christians, the wealthy, and other traditionally privileged groups to commit violence when their privileges are threatened by democratic processes. (People not from privileged groups may be gunned down by police — with full conservative support — if they are even suspected of being armed.) Best expressed by Sharron Angle in her 2010 Senate campaign: “if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.” Also by Virginia Republican Catherine Crabill: “We have a chance to fight this battle at the ballot box before we have to resort to the bullet box. But that’s the beauty of our Second Amendment right. I am glad for all of us who enjoy the use of firearms for hunting. But make no mistake. That was not the intent of the Founding Fathers. Our Second Amendment right was to guard against tyranny.”
Slavery. The Old South’s enlightened system for taking care of blacks without a welfare state. Usage: “And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
Small business. Any economic entity not in the Fortune 500, and maybe a few that are. At various times, small business has included privately-owned firms like Bechtel or wealthy individuals who incorporate, like billionaire George Soros. Since it evokes images of Mom-and-Pop diners or three-chair beauty salons, tax breaks for small business are always popular. But since one mis-categorized multi-national giant can outweigh a thousand Main Street card shops, the bulk of the breaks always end up going to the big boys. (See family farm.)
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. 2. The real cause of the Civil War, which had nothing to do with slavery.
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.”
Taxes. A method of stealing money from job creators and giving it to poor people. Unrelated to Social Security, Medicare, roads, schools, lowering the deficit, or any other useful goal.
Telling it like it is. Pandering to people who resemble the speaker. Usage: Middle-aged white guy Wayne Allyn Root: “Donald Trump tells it like it is.” Alternate form: Calling it like he sees it. Usage: Ted Nugent writing, “Donald Trump … calls them like he sees them.”
Terrorist. 1. A Muslim. 2. Any violent person conservatives don’t like. Cannot be applied to violent anti-abortionists, white supremacists, or tax resisters. (See Second Amendment rights.)
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.)
Trumponym. (This is said about conservatives rather than by them, but was too good to leave out.) A word used in defiance of all known definitions. Example: “Obama is the founder of ISIS.” Coined by Nathan Heller.
Tyranny. When a Marxist gets elected and then tries to carry out the platform the people voted for. Example: ObamaCare.
Values. Beliefs that condemn gays or promiscuous women. Usage: the Values Voters Summit.
Voter fraud. Any votes cast by people whose demographic profile makes them likely to vote Democratic, i.e., blacks, Hispanics, or students. Alternate form: election fraud. Usage: “Obama likely won re-election through election fraud.”
Welfare. Any payment from the government, including (when convenient) Social Security, unemployment compensation, or student loans. Usage: “Unemployment compensation is just another welfare program.”