Words and the Way We Use Them

Sometimes we stumble into history.  My husband and I did exactly that last week when we chose to visit Mt. Dora, Florida.  Little did we know that Newt Gingrich was planning a visit, too.  The Florida Republican primaries were in full swing, and so was the Gingrich entourage.  As we ate breakfast on the porch of a historic hotel on Lake Dora we learned that Newt, Callista and the gang were appearing the next morning, to be introduced by Calvin Coolidge himself.  We  made plans not to attend, although we do like Calvin Coolidge. 

Late the next morning we decided to visit the hotel again, certain the hoopla would be over.  It wasn’t.  While we missed the speech and Calvin, the Gingrich campaign was still there, shaking hands, having photos taken.  We took a table, watched and listened.  From my closest neighbor I learned that as a “liberal” I should be automatically deported to either France or Greece.  (I so wanted to ask this gentleman if Santorini was a possibility.)  Small groups of people wearing Patriot Army T-shirts converged on us, which made my heart beat a little faster. 

In front of us, deeply mired in the crowd, Newt continued to inch his way to the car.  I worried about security.  There were plenty of people in uniform, but it only takes one unstable person with a grudge to have another Gabby Giffords moment.  I was relieved to see him get in at last and be driven away.  I fervently hope all our candidates safely drive away at the end of these events. 

Seeing one of the candidates in person, and being subjected to the negative campaigning on Florida television did make me think harder.  I remembered hearing that in 1990 Newt, himself, published a list of words Republican candidates should use when talking about Democrats.  So after the event, I searched for it.  Along the way I found another list a group at politicalstrategy.org had put together to turn the tables.  You’ll enjoy the contrast.

Newt’s list

“Anti-flag, anti-family, anti-child, anti-jobs, betray, coercion, collapse, consequences, corruption, crises, decay, deeper, destroy, destructive, devour, endanger, failure, greed, hypocrisy, ideological, impose, incompetent, insecure, liberal, lie, limit(s), pathetic, permissive attitude, radical, self-serving, sensationalists, shallow, sick, they/them, threaten, traitors, unionized bureaucracy, urgent, waste.”

Political Strategy’s list:

“American, Best-interest, Bipartisan, Caring, Children, Choice, Clean, Common sense, Confident, Correct, Courage, Decent, Democracy, Determination, Diversity, Environment, Equity, Fairness, Family, Fiscal responsibility, Forward looking, Freedom, Growth, Hard working, Health, Humane, Innovative, Justice, Liberty, Life, Majority, Middle-class, Moral, New ideas, Open government, Open-minded, Passionate, Peace, Pioneer, Populist, Progressive, Pro-growth, Promote, Prosperity, Protection, Proud, Reality, Responsibility, Security, Solution, Strength, Success, Tolerance, Truth, Unity, Vision, We/us/our, Win, Women, Working, Working-class.”

Does any of this sound familiar? 

Let’s, none of us, Republican/Democrat, or Conservative/Liberal be taken in by lists of words in this next election.  Let’s listen, but let’s search hard for the facts and not be taken in by rhetoric. 

This is as political as I plan to get in the next months.  My job is words, not politics.  I’m just asking that we all use them wisely.


On another subject and speaking of lists?  Random.org tells me that the January winner for the “lists” giveaway is Myra Lynn Ross, whose comment fit today’s blog so well that I had to include it.  For the list entitled “Things I Want to Know” Myra Lynn wrote: “Why we are so threaatened by those who disagree with us.” 

More lists to come and more chances to win an autographed novel.  Stay tuned.


  1. Marna on February 3, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Well said, Emilie.

  2. Lynn Ross - Toledo on February 3, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Thank you, Emilie, for the reminder that we need to step back and not get caught up in the hate as the campaign draws nearer. I “hate being hateful,” and politics brings out my shadow side when I get caught up in the words, as I am wont to do, since I am a great lover of words. By the way, I consider it quite an honor to be quoted by you. <3

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