Mugwumps, Bailiwicks, and Pregnant Chads: The Vocabulary of Politics

Today is Election Day for my neighbours across the Irish Sea (not to mention a day of infamy for Donald Trump as James Comey testifies), and it looks like child’s-drawing-of-a-parent’s-description-of-a-nightmare-about-Margaret-Thatcher Theresa May will win. Not too surprising though. What was surprising for some people though was when Foreign Secretary and rejected-Monty-Python-sketch-character Boris Johnson called Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn a mutton-headed mugwump early on in the election. By mugwump, Johnson meant someone who remains aloof or independent from party politics. The term has a long history, originating from a Massachusett Native-American word for war leader. The term was applied to Republican Activists in the 1884 American Presidential Election who supported the Democrat nominee Grover Cleveland. They were rejecting the political corruption of Republican candidate James G. Blaine, and were ironically nicknamed mugwumps to imply that they were sanctimonious in their removal of themselves from party politics. Mugwump is just one of the many interesting words associated with the world of politics and elections, such as:

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Time is Money

Time is money.

Such an ugly phrase, isn’t it? Only the most obnoxious, boorish oaf would use it without a trace of irony. What a perfect representation of the greedy arrogance of our late-capitalist society¬†(i before e after c), of the desire to just make more and more money, or at least not to lose any of it.

But maybe we shouldn’t dismiss it so easily. Maybe using it isn’t just the preserve of the greedy. Look at how we talk about both time and money: Continue reading