In last night's presidential debate, Barack Obama said that Mitt Romney's economic plan amounted to a "sketchy deal." Soon thereafter, #SketchyDeal was a trending topic on Twitter (in part thanks to the Obama campaign's own Twitter account), used to question or criticize various aspects of Romney's proposals. With sketchy
in the spotlight, it's worth sketching out how the word came to prominence, and how it can mean different things to different people.
In last night's vice-presidential debate, there was one clear winner: the word malarkey
. Joe Biden used it not once but twice against Paul Ryan. First, in responding to Ryan's criticism of the Obama administration's handling of last month's attacks in Benghazi, he told Ryan, "With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey." And then later, Biden euphemistically called Ryan's rhetoric "a bunch of stuff" before clarifiying, "We Irish call it malarkey."
The most memorable line in Wednesday night's presidential debate, at least if social media is any indication, came when Mitt Romney vowed to cut funding to PBS but added, "I like PBS. I love Big Bird." President Obama had a good comeback for the Big Bird line... except he delivered it a day later.
In my most recent column for the Boston Globe
, I poke fun at new advertising slogans that Apple is using for its iPod line: the latest iPod Nano is "Completely Renanoed," while the iPod Touch is "Engineered for Maximum Funness." Whereas renanoed
at least shows a modicum of creativity (turning Nano
into a verb capable of taking the re-
seems to be an unnecessarily cutesy elaboration on plain old fun
. But hang on: can we make a distinction between fun
This week, there have been many celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the emoticon, the now-ubiquitous use of punctuation marks to mark emotion in online text. On September 19, 1982, at 11:44 a.m., Scott Fahlman posted a message to a Carnegie Mellon bulletin board, proposing that :-)
be used for marking jokes and :-(
for non-jokes. Though Fahlman should get full credit for these pioneering smiley and frowny faces, there were in fact much earlier pioneers in expressive typography.
If there's one expression that seems to have taken over the media landscape lately, it's "doubling down." Deriving from the game of blackjack, "doubling down" has taken on a figurative meaning over the past couple of decades: "to engage in risky behavior, especially when one is already in a dangerous situation," as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it. So why is everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to Bill Clinton talking about risk-taking in this way? And when is it considered a good thing?
Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention, in which he nominated President Obama for re-election, has been hailed as a rhetorical tour de force. The press corps marveled at how Clinton used the prepared speech as a mere starting point, injecting his remarks with ad-libbed folksiness. The result was a speech that managed to elucidate wonky policy specifics in the homespun style of a Southern preacher.