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November 17, 2007


by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

Yglesias comes out against the phrase "the American people". I'm not so sure. You'll notice that Barack Obama almost never uses the phrase "people" even when it is the most natural word, preferring "folks". I'm not sure if this is an attempt at being down-home or an attempt to avoid "people" because onomatopoetically it might sound pejorative (cf. Perot, Ross at the NAACP). "Americans" and "America" do seem like acceptable alternatives, and certainly better ones than "the public", which Matt also left out. The use of "people" also helps identify the Dems as the more populist party.

If we're looking for other constructions to eliminate, I also vote agaisnt the use of "State-ans" when residents of State don't ever use the term. I don't know anyone out here in the woolly northwest who refers to themselves as a "Washingtonian" or "Oregonian". "Nevadans" made an appearance during the most recent debate, and while I don't know if that word appears in common parlance, it sure sounds like it doesn't. Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) even uses "Michiganian", which in addition to sounding silly isn't even the preferred term! So unless the residents of your state actually use this construction (as in "Texas", or as a stretch "New Yorker"), drop it. Prefer "the people of State" or "the good people of State".

Use this as an open thread for phrases you hear only in politics that you wish you never had to hear again.

Update: There are several worthy candidates in the comments, but I wanted to hilight the suggestion of banishing "homeland" and especially "the homeland" from our political lexicon, considering it was fabricated out of whole cloth in the wake of 9/11  ,

—Signed, not Ezra Klein

November 17, 2007 | Permalink


United States-ians?

Posted by: El Cid | Nov 17, 2007 11:52:11 AM


Eh, I'm not so sure. Some of us also tend not to like being associated with one particular "Oregonian"...

Posted by: George Tenet Fangirl | Nov 17, 2007 12:01:53 PM

The one that really bugs me is when politicians address an audience of people in a state they only see once every few years, while they're running for president, as "friends".

When John McCain's candidacy dries up, the usage of this term of affection should drop by about 80%, so I suppose I won't complain too much.

Posted by: sweaty guy | Nov 17, 2007 12:06:23 PM

Sometimes politicians shouldn't use the term even if it is used locally. "Angelino" gets tossed around and it drives me crazy. I certainly hope our pols don't use it.

Posted by: Quixote | Nov 17, 2007 12:11:07 PM

Why is "New Yorker" a stretch? People here use that all the time.

Posted by: mad6798j | Nov 17, 2007 12:16:06 PM

I grew up outside of Beaverton. I left Oregon in 2000. I will always consider myself an Oregonian.

Posted by: Klug | Nov 17, 2007 12:33:19 PM

I say "Oregonian" all the time to refer to myself or others. Of course I moved here from California, so I'm sure to a lot of Oregonians I'll never be a real Oregonian myself. So what do I know?

Posted by: Ryan Fox | Nov 17, 2007 12:42:44 PM

Certainly Virginians have no problem with "Virginians".

Posted by: KCinDC | Nov 17, 2007 12:44:52 PM

Um, how old are you??? The word people is inextricably linked with communism. Haven't you heard that? Don't you know of the vast crimes committed in the name of "the people."? Don't you know that "the people" was a phrase used to bludgeon whole societies? It is very educated of Obama to avoid this usage. When Hillary says she will take away money from {you) for the good of "the people" she sounds like Lenin.

Posted by: Klein's normal nut | Nov 17, 2007 1:09:15 PM

What? You can't use "the people" because Stalinists used it? What about "the folk", or "the nation", or the "homeland"? Don't you know what crimes were committed using these words?

Posted by: El Cid | Nov 17, 2007 1:18:50 PM

"When Hillary says she will take away money from {you) for the good of "the people" she sounds like Lenin."

I thought Lenin usually spoke of the "proletariat" or "Soviets". Or "workers". Now Hitler, OTOH, did have constituencies in the financial & industrial elites, and the hereditary nobility, so the all-inclusive "Volk" was appropriate. Hmm, anybody listening closely to Obama, are we sure it is "folks?"

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 17, 2007 1:20:51 PM

Personally, I've always wondered whether "Michigander" implies that a woman from Michigan should be called a "Michigoose"...

My wife (Michigan born and bred) assures me this is not the case, but I'm not convinced.

Posted by: jeb | Nov 17, 2007 1:30:30 PM

There was a novel called The Virginian. Folks from Indiana are Hoosiers and Texans are, for better or worse, proud to be Texans. Are there Connecticutters?

It would seem to depend on the state. Some states simply were not named with this in mind.

Love Michigoose.

Posted by: Mudge | Nov 17, 2007 2:03:53 PM

If Solzhenitsyn can use the phrase "the Russian people" in his essays, then there should be no worry of not sounding sufficiently anti-communist by using "the American people."

What's the matter KleinNut-- Solzhenitsyn too much of a leftist for you?

Posted by: Tyro | Nov 17, 2007 2:30:06 PM

Personally, I LOATHE hearing, "God Bless_________."

It's silly, unsophisticated, and pandering of the worst kind.

Posted by: BoyBlue | Nov 17, 2007 2:32:10 PM

Crap, Solzhenitsyn didn't actually write that essay. My bad.

Posted by: Tyro | Nov 17, 2007 2:32:19 PM

I've seen some CT pol use that phrase...

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Nov 17, 2007 2:34:46 PM

I have to agree that "people" is largely associated with communism. China's full name is "The People's Republic of China", for example.

For those that grew up with The People's Court this may seem strange, but word needs to be avoided in certain uses for a few more decades.

Oh, and "Oregonian" is used fairly often. You must be a Washingtonian, or you'd know that.

Posted by: Mark | Nov 17, 2007 3:03:38 PM

but [the] word needs to be avoided in certain uses for a few more decades.

In that case, we should probably ban references to "the homeland" for a while. Also, we should refer to the colors of the American flag as "White and Blue."

Posted by: Tyro | Nov 17, 2007 3:06:54 PM

I'm a lifelong Washingtonian (if currently in long-term East Coast exile). I have much worse beefs to pick with politicians' rhetoric, like their constant invocations of sloppy metaphysical constructs ("God").

By the way, you really ought to know it's "woolly." With two l's.

Posted by: dal20402 | Nov 17, 2007 3:14:21 PM

"good night, and god bless america"

Posted by: JStarr | Nov 17, 2007 3:18:51 PM

"The American people" is not bad, but "the people" is still heinous. Of course Lenin also used other phrases like proletariat, etc, but I still have the impression that the final justifier for all deeds was "the people", for the good of the people, etc. Beyond that, it is profoundly infantile, suggesting that every single American has one unified interest, as against the evil---you fill it in -- bankers, insurers, big oil companies, etc. Folks, on the other hand, is not as universal. It suggests some people, some times, etc. It just seems a more adult and frankly, honest way to address issues. Does anyone really believe that in any domestic issue there is one clear path of interest for the "people."? No, there are groups with competing, mutually exclusive interests that must be somehow balanced and dealt with.

Posted by: Klein's normal nut | Nov 17, 2007 3:18:54 PM

In that case, we should probably ban references to "the homeland" for a while.

First you think it, then you say it, then you do it.

If I were running, I'd make the elimination of 'Homeland' from titles, etc, a campaign issue...

As much as some of the Hart-Rudman commission's suggestions were timely and necessary, creating the American Heimat was an abomination.

As far as state nicknames, I shall refrain from calling my neighbors Maineacs so long as they don't refer to me as a Masshole, a condition apparently unaffected by 25 years of residence.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina | Nov 17, 2007 3:27:19 PM

but "the people" is still heinous.

The offending terms are narod, or Volk or such,

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union....

Case closed.

They stole it from us.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina | Nov 17, 2007 3:32:45 PM

A Washingtonian is someone from the city of Washington, DC. I am a Washingtonian.

The phrase I never want to hear again is "so help me God" tacked on to the end of the President's oath of office, unconstitutionally.

Posted by: Herschel | Nov 17, 2007 3:45:13 PM

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