Monday, 15 September 2008

US Political Phraseology Explained For Brits

Some of the British media, being either too lazy or too drunk to care, have taken to referring to Sarah Palin as a Hockey mom and her soon to be son-in-law (whether he likes it or not) as a redneck.
All very international but most of us here haven't got a clue what a Hockey Mom is or what she does or indeed what makes her a hockey mom. To make it a bit simpler for Brits to follow the news about the US Election, allow me to explain a few of the terms and pass on the closest British equivalent that you will hear dribbling from the keyboards of the press between now and when Obama is elected in November.

Hockey Mom: The British version can be seen each weekend at the side of their kids pitch screaming and bawling at the referee and other parents. 'Pushy parent' would be our equivalent and you just know that if there offspring scores, you will hear about it for the next six weeks. No, i don't know why it is seen as a good thing for Palin to be pushing either but then the only time my parents came to see me play netball i was too busy waving to them that i ran into the post and spent the evening in the casualty department.

Redneck: The nearest i can get to for a British equivalent of redneck is a Country Bumpkin. Someone with very little savvy who spends all the day outside in the sun getting burnt and ending up with the tell-tale 'red neck'. The South of the States is redneck country where as the British countryside is seen as more the preserve of the wealthy so it's not perfect but a big, clumsy farmhand who spent more time learning how to drive his father's tractor then learning his multiplication tables is about where we have an equivalent.

Gate: Seems that anything of a dubious nature has the word 'gate' stuffed on the end of it. 'Gate' tagged on to a word simply indicates a scandal and is named after the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. The most recent example is Lipstickgate where Obama said "putting lipstick on a pig" during a recent campaign trail speech. Simply -gate means scandal and the word before it tells you who, where or how.

GOP: You would be excused thinking it stood for Grumpy Old Person when you see John McCain doddering up to the stage but its actually another name for the Republican Party.

Commander-in-chief: Term for the President as commander of the nation's armed forces. Our own Prime Minister also has other titles but most of them would involve typing crude Anglo-Saxon words although he is also referred to as the First Lord of the Treasury.

I am sure that there will be other words and phrases we won't know the meaning of by November and i will do my best to ask other people and pass them off here as if i knew what they were all along.

25 comments:

Noah "Nog" M. said...

Some corrections I might suggest:

-Hockey mom: It is a quasi-spoof equivalent of "soccer mom". Of course, in Alaska kids play a lot more hockey. And I didn't think it had any inherent "pushy" connotations. There is some limited "stay-at-home" "housewife" sense in it. And "soccer mom" isn't always used pejoratively (unless applied by rednecks).

-Redneck: Country bumpkin is a good equivalent. In the States it also often carries some connotations of the person being a bigot. You are correct that it usually has connotations of being poor or working class. But sometimes rich cityfolk will use the term as an insult or term of derision towards rich country-folk (different aristocracies have had a habit of hating each-other's guts).
On rare occasions, the term is applied (often self-applied) as a compliment amongst rural or Southern folk because it can be taken to mean that the person has worked very hard.
And I don't know the context you've said "the South of the States" but it's generally called "the South" or the "Southern States". And the term redneck, tho most used in reference to Southerners can be used with rural people anywhere, especially rural people in the "West" (roughly any rural area West of the Mississippi river from North Dakota to rural California).

-Gate: This definition is good. It's a really annoying thing that the press does.

-GOP: Stands for "Grand Old Party" even tho, strictly speaking, the Democratic Party is older. I'm of the understanding that the term actually started floating around when the Republican party was pretty young to.

-Commander-in-Chief: As always, the executive fantasizes himself to be a great war leader. Presidents seem quite fond of remembering this particular function of their office and unfortunately our wise founders neglected to require that someone constantly whisper "Respica te, hominem te memento" in the President's ear.
I'd personally say that this term seems to carry some subtle monarchist (as in old tyrannical kings) connotations. I guess a way of putting it is that it has an ever so slight but nontheless frightening whiff of the word "F├╝hrer".

-Nog

Noah "Nog" M. said...

Oh, and I don't know if it applies so much to political coverage, but Americans us a lot of baseball idioms and Americans I know who have lived in England have told me that most Brits don't get them.

For instance:
-"Touch base"
-"In the ballpark"
-"Go over the bases"
-and so on...

effay said...

Hockey mom: I'd say there are probably only about 10 states where this phrase wouldn't prompt someone to ask what hockey was.

GOP: For the longest time I didn't know what this stood for, and I was conscious of that fact, but I just didn't care.

-gate: Thanks Lucy. Now I'm going to be really annoyed every time I hear an iteration of this for the rest of my life.

Cheezy said...

I didn't really know, until young Levi Johnston used the word to refer to himself, that 'redneck' could be used approvingly (as Nog notes, above).

When I hear redneck I usually think of the English word 'pikey', the New Zealand word 'bogan', and the Australianism 'feral'.

It all basically means: white trash.

Another American political term is 'pork barrel'. It certainly happens in the UK too, but I don't think most British people are as familiar with the term. It originated back in the slave-era in the USA.

Lucy said...

Thank you for the explanations Noah, i wasn't aware redneck was a possible positive thing to be but makes sense i guess after reading your explanation.
I use 'in the ballpark' myself.

I was thinking Chav or Pikey cheesy but it seems to whiff of sub-class to me whereas the steroetypicle country bumpkin is just a bit dim and a bit of a unsocialised lump.
I don't know what pork barrell means, not sure i have heard it mentioned unless it is a variation of snout in the pig trough.

Anonymous said...

Lucy,

I think you were mislead some. If someone is dim and unsocialised they are a hick or a hillbilly.

Redneck implies a sense of meanness and it often comes out in the form of bigotry or violence.

White trash is a term you don't hear much anymore because it is considered by many to be racist. In Texas and the South (Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, parts of Florida, Carolina's, and Kentucky) white trash used to mean lack of character.

Q

effay said...

"Redneck implies a sense of meanness and it often comes out in the form of bigotry or violence."

This is not necessarily true. I think it might seem like that because yankees always imply those things when they say "redneck," but they also imply those things when they say "hick" and "hillbilly." It's just that they use the term "redneck" more often than the others.

If you are actually speaking as a Southerner, hicks, hillbillys, and rednecks describe the same person except you can only call someone a hillbilly where there are hills, like in Arkansas and West Virginia. If you called someone a hillbilly in Oklahoma people would be justifiably confused. But I've never heard anyone down here distinguish mean country folks as "rednecks" and nice ones as "hicks," it's just a matter of what you feel like saying.

Cheezy said...

I think we should all be thankful that the English language has so many great words we can use to slag people off :)

Anonymous said...

Very good Lucy - it took me a while to figure out GOP I have to admit! 'Hockey Moms' and so on are destroying the enjoyment kids get out of sport these days.

Anonymous said...

According to all the political analysts, it was the "soccer moms" that elected Slick Willy...

"Hockey mom" is just the Northern Exposure vesion of "soccer mom".

Effay - You ever been to Eastern Oklahoma? They got hillbillies dude (unless maybe its some Missouri or Arkansas hillbilly immigrants) I find it hard to tell the difference...

When a redneck calls someone "redneck" they mean it as a compliment = drives a truck, shoots guns, likes cheap beer (free or cold will do), likes burnt coffee (not that wussie Seattle crap - really strong Folgers or Community coffee), eats BBQ, feeds salad to the cows, hunts, likes the smell of horse shit, cow shit, chicken shit, sheep shit, and goat shit, thinks they could be a pioneer, etc.

Q

Anonymous said...

I think that the sooner the whole world adopts the American language and culture the better off it'll be.

Thelma.

effay said...

"You ever been to Eastern Oklahoma? They got hillbillies dude..."

Ya, I actually spent about 30 seconds trying to decide if I should trouble everyone with that qualification.

Now that you've brought it up though, I am reminded of something (somewhat unrelated to the current discussion) a friend of mine from Tulsa once said: he said that people from Arkansas always talk about how shitty Oklahoma is, but they fail to recognize that the only part of Oklahoma they've ever been to is Eastern Oklahoma which is pretty much the same as Arkansas, and quite different from the rest of Oklahoma. So what they're actually saying is that Arkansas is shitty.

Cheezy said...

Sounds to me like Arkansas and Oklahoma should duke it out :)

Cody Bones said...

Cheezy, since Arkansas plays in the SEC, and Oklahoma is in the big 12, they rarely get to duke it out. Arkansas is playing Alabama this weekend in a highly anticipated clash of historic SEC powerhouses that should prove to be an.... Dammit, wrong blog, I thought this was ESPN's College weekly. Sorry, carry on.

Cody Bones said...

But it does remind me of my favorite College football joke. What does the N on the side of Nebraska's helmet stand for??? KNOWLEDGE!!

Get it? Trust me, they are rolling in the aisles in the big 12 over that one.

Lucy said...

How's Arsenal and Spurs doing in Basketball Cody? In football here Arsenal are 3rd and Spurs are, to be polite, anchored to the bottom like Davy Jones locker.

Anonymous said...

Lucy,

The Spurs are in the NBA. The NBA season beings Octoberish...

A key Spur (Manu) will be out for a while so they will likely struggle, at least at first. I suspect they will get better over the season and step up to and squash Noah's Houston Rockets!

Q

Cheezy said...

"Cheezy, since Arkansas plays in the SEC, and Oklahoma is in the big 12, they rarely get to duke it out. "

Fair enough, although I was talking about a war, rather than any kind of sport :)

"In football here Arsenal are 3rd "

Ah, remember those days when the Arse actually used to win stuff though, Lucy? Nostalgia eh?? ;)

Lucy said...

Spurs struggling Q, if Cheezy got a pound for everytime he heard that he could afford a season ticket to the Arsenal.

Cheezy said...

Watch football at the library? Thanks all the same, but I think I'm washing my hair that day!

effay said...

As long as the Spurs have Bruce Bowen they're good. I mean, the guy is allowed to knee people in the johnson for Pete's sake! How do you compete with that?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7J2SDouIqtA

effay said...

Another good dirty Bowen play:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhTjSrZi91Y&feature=related

Cheezy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheezy said...

That kick to the head was quality.

Hey Lucy, this is just in case you want to put aside our petty Arse v Spurs rivalry for a moment, and laugh at the real common enemy :)

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=F9HGGFaAGSE

Lucy said...

That was brilliant cheesy, I had to put my coffee down i was laughing so much.
The bit Rolf Harris will have me chuckling all evening.