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Safire’s Political Dictionary

Publisher: Oxford University Press • 2008 • 896 pages

What is “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” and where did that politically pungent phrase originate? What are “netroots” — and how do they differ from ?Rightroots?? And what the heck was a mugwump, anyway? When it comes to the vagaries of language in American politics, William Safire is the language maven we most readily turn to for clarity, guidance, and penetrating wit. Now, just in time for the 2008 elections, comes this updated and expanded edition of “Safire’s Political Dictionary” — the definitive guide to the language of politics both past and present.

First published in 1968 as “The New Language of Politics,” nearly every entry in that renowned work has been revised and updated, and scores of completely new entries have been added to produce an indispensable guide to the political language being used and abused in America today. From Axis of Evil, Blame Game, Bridge to Nowhere, Triangulation, and Compassionate Conservatism to Islamofascism, Netroots, Earmark, Wingnuts and Moonbats, Slam Dunk, Doughnut Hole, and many others, this language maven explains the origin of each term, how and by whom and for what purposes it has been used or twisted, as well as its perceived and real significance. Safire’s definitions often read like a mini-essays in political history, and readers will come away not only with a fuller understanding of particular words but also a richer knowledge of how politics works, and fails to work, in America.

“An authoritative collection of whistle-stopping campaign slogans and vicious slings and arrows of partisan attacks that stretches all the way back to the Founding Fathers (who came up with terms like “electioneer” and the party “ticket”). Last updated in 1993, before the U.S. political lexicon had acquired “soccer moms” (1996), “fuzzy math” (2000) and “Swift Boat spot” (2004), the book’s newest version includes rich linguistic bequeathals from both the Clinton and second Bush White Houses.” — Newsweek

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