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With the US political season in active mode, we devote this week to words about politics and politicians. Not necessarily limited to them, mind you, but suitable descriptors of them. We start, of course, with one that also meets last week’s theme.

reptilian – cold-bloodedly treacherous (also, of course, relating to or resembling reptiles)
    Throughout his career, his [Ken Livingstone's] real skill always been in political manipulation rather than administration. … there was always something reptilian about this town hall Machiavelli as he twisted his way to the top of London politics.
    – Daily Mail, May 3, 2008
 
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An interesting tit-bit of information that may be new to the Americans on this board, at least: Ken Livingstone is (or was) a newt-fancier. That's someone who keeps them as pets, Asa, not what you were thinking. Wink

I wonder if that has any relationship to the Mail's choice of epithet? I know that dog-lovers are supposed to come to look like their pets ...


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Quite correct, arnie. For compactness, I'd abbreviated the full quote, which reads, "As befits a lover of newts, there was always something reptilian about this town hall Machiavelli, etc.
 
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prevaricate – to avoid giving a direct answer to a question (note: unlike to lie, it has a sense of evasion and of stalling, delaying)
[Great etymology: from Latin for ‘to straddle’, which is in turn from varus ‘bent’ and either ‘bowlegged’ or ‘knock-kneed’. (Some cite Latin for ‘walk crookedly’.)]
    As far as the Electoral Reform Society is concerned, the Labour party has stalled and prevaricated at every turn.
    – The Spectator, Apr. 16, 2005

    Barbara George, the first high-ranking Mountie found in contempt of Parliament for misleading MPs, now almost certainly will become a historic example for all bureaucrats and other witnesses who dare dodge, prevaricate, deceive or lie to parliamentary committees.
    – Ottawa Citizen, Apr. 11, 2008
 
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newt-fancier

I prefer Crunchy Frog or Spring Surprise.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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For today’s term, the dictionaries give only the literal definition, so I’ve had to author the metaphorical one. Any corrections are cheerfully accepted.

Punch and Judy show – internal bickering that is low-spirited, vicious, destructive and endless
[After “that most tempestuous of puppet partnerships, Punch and Judy,” spouses in a traditional English puppet for children, who constantly bicker, battle and beat each other.]
    … caricatured … Clinton as a woman with balls, Obama as "unqualified" and "grandiose," … Bill O'Reilly declares that Michelle Obama should be "lynched." How do we resist such a toxic Punch and Judy show … to the degree that many women feel that a vote for Obama "cheats" Clinton of her chance to break the glass ceiling, and many blacks feel that a vote for Clinton is a betrayal of the chance to break the race barrier?
    – Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Feb. 29, 2008

    Is there anything to be done about the Punch and Judy show that is our House of Commons? They shout, they heckle. When an MP from an opposing party is speaking, the noise is worse.
    – Diary Hugh Muir, March 21, 2008

This message has been edited. Last edited by: wordcrafter,
 
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I love puppetry references! FWIW, some colleagues of mine have made Punch and Judy replicas (a bit smaller than the originals, I think) and have been reviving some of the spirit of the shows, but they've had to significantly tone down the violence and even then have gotten some complaints from parents about "setting bad examples".


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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I think the Wikpedia article here puts what I was about to say rather better than I could have:
quote:
The stereotypical view of Punch casts him as a deformed, child-murdering, wife-beating psychopath who commits appalling acts of violence and cruelty upon all those around him and escapes scot-free – this is greatly enjoyed by small children ... While censorious Political Correctness threatened Punch and Judy performances in the UK and other English speaking countries for a time, the show is having one of its cyclical recurrences and can now be seen not only in England, Wales, and Ireland, but also in Canada, the United States (including Puerto Rico) and even Australia and South Africa.
I must say, though, that I haven't seen much evidence of its "cyclical recurrences"; the art of the "Professor" seems to be dying fast and although many children here love Mr Punch on the rare occasions when they get a chance to see him, most have to be content with the violence on TV or in their computer games instead.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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bombastic – grandiose but with little meaning
[a stuffing made of cotton fiber was called bombast, from Greek bombux "silkworm"]
    Hell hath no fury like a black pastor scorned. … Obama should have thrown Wright under the semi a long time ago. … Wright's apocalyptic rhetoric and bombastic verbiage have poisoned Obama's mantra of hope and change.
    – Chicago Sun-Times, May 5, 2008
 
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Grand Guignol – a sensational or horrific dramatic entertainment
[from the Grand Guignol theatre in Paris. Guignol was the bloodthirsty chief character in a French puppet show resembling Punch and Judy.]

This word seems appropriate for gory "slasher" movies. More about it in a soon-upcoming theme.
    The Grand Guignol between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has to end eventually …
    – Wall Street Journal, Apr. 30, 2008
 
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A local theatre put on a couple of old Grand Guignol plays. They were sort of like Twilight Zone meets Alfred Hitchcock Presents meets Herschel Gordon Lewis.
 
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logrolling – (N. Amer.) an exchange of favors between politicians: “You vote for my project and I’ll vote for yours”
(sometimes, a like exchange between writers, artists, etc.: “You write a blurb praising my book and I’ll write one praising yours.”)
    Urban lawmakers are normally happy to vote for crop subsidies in exchange for food-stamp votes from rural lawmakers. It is textbook political logrolling.
    – San Francisco Chronicle, May 5, 2008 (I omit the details, so as not to be partisan!)
 
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earmarks (earmarking) – “special spending projects that members of Congress procure for their home districts, often with little or no oversight” (Reuters, Apr. 30, 2008)

This quote should give you the flavor:
    Rep. Don Young [of Alaska] offered a public explanation for a secret earmark that so angered fellow lawmakers that they called on the Justice Department to investigate it. [T]he 2005 earmark [in a $286.4 billion highway bill] shifted $10 million from a road-widening project in southwest Florida to a study that promised to benefit one of Young’s campaign donors. Even as Young defended the earmark, he didn’t offer an explanation for how it was inserted into the highway spending bill after the House and Senate both had voted on it.
    – Boston Herald, Apr. 30, 2008 (ellipses omitted)
 
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