Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Reaction's Word of the Year: Douchebag

By Michael J.W. Stickings

GIF, short for "graphic interchange format," is the pick of the Oxford American Dictionary, which obviously went for somewhat after-the-fact novelty. Merriam-Webster, going with political relevance, selected capitalism and socialism (even though the whole "socialism" attack is a fabrication of the right). Collins Dictionary, sticking to "the top news stories and trends of the year," picked words on a month-by-month basis, words like "fiscal cliff," which of course isn't one word but two, and Eurogeddon, which is sort of fake. The Oxford English Dictionary looked back at 2012 neologisms to see which ones might stick, new words like "omnishambles" and "flexitarian" (which isn't new; I've been using it to describe my food choices for years). The American Dialect Society will be selecting its pick later this week, and possibilities include "Frankenstorm." There's just no end to the WOTY fun.

At this political blog of ours, though, it would appear that one word emerged this year as our winner, and it's one that played a big role in our election coverage. No, not "hope" or "change." Those are so 2008, and, besides, with President Obama unchallenged in the primaries and running pretty much as a known commodity in the general election, this was a year dominated by the Republicans, specifically, once the detritus was cast aside (Bachmann, Cain, Santorum, Trump, Gingrich, etc.), by Willard Mitt Romney.

And back in January, on the 19th, long before he had the nomination sown up, and with still so much drama to come, we set the tone for the year to come:

-- "Privileged rich douchebag: The Mitt Romney narrative for 2012." 

Yes, douchebag. It was our definition of Romney and it's now our Word of the Year for 2012.

Here's what I wrote at the time:

Douchebag (Wikipedia): "The term usually refers to a person, usually male, with a variety of negative qualities, specifically arrogance and engaging in obnoxious and/or irritating actions, most often without malicious intent." If we weren't required to be all civil when talking politics, wouldn't we call Romney a douchebag? Or something similar?

Indeed, the only problem with the word, according to the Wikipedia definition, is that it suggests intent that isn't malicious. In the sense that Romney is an entitled asshole -- which, again, we would say about most people doing the things he does and saying the things he says -- sure, it may be that he's just being himself, that he can't help himself. Like when he talks about firing the people who serve him or pushing $10,000 bets. But there's more to him than that. Consider, for example, that under his tax plan he would find his taxes cut in half. Yes, here's a rich guy who thinks that politics should be for rich guys who has a plan to make rich people like himself even richer and who dismisses the rest of us as envious.

Douchebag? You make the call. Feel free to suggest a more appropriate word for him.

Anyway, whatever we call him, this narrative of Romney as "a callous, out-of-touch rich man" is sticking. And, Romney being Romney, it will continue to stick through the campaign. Democrats can help it along by pointing to Romney's plutocratic, self-interested agenda, as well as to his work at Bain Capital, but he is his own worst enemy in the sense that he is feeding this narrative all by himself, just by being himself.

It may be overly simplistic, but we went back to it time and time again over the course of the year. It was just the most fitting term for him, on its own and part of a longer definition, such as "privileged rich douchebag with a plutocratic sense of entitlement."

It made its way into countless posts, written by me and others, but here are a few examples of when it made its way into post titles:

(Along these lines, another option for political word of the year is "Romneying," coined by Slate's David Weigel.)

So there you have it: douchebag. It was the key word for the person we wrote about the most this year, and it worked.

And it's our Word of the Year.


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