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Examples :: Jargon :: Political jargon

Political jargon

Arguably the most changeable and sometimes the least comprehensible language on Earth, political jargon is basically a hybrid of professional, political, legal and marketing languages.

There are a few basic points of reference to political jargon:

  • Political slang- the commonly used terms in that form of government
  • Local references- Issues, people, places local idioms and slang
  • Public rhetoric- The material and themes of speeches and press statements
  • House language- The language of the parliament or congress terminology

Generally speaking normal political jargon is a confusing combination of all these forms. To speak the language, you need to know the references in context with the jargon.

Political slang

This is an example of normal political jargon:

Smith is a left winger, but has crossed the floor repeatedly to vote with the conservatives on the civil rights issues. Recently he's been getting on the soap box about policies and principles, and blocking legislation. He's now on the outer with his party as a result, and heading either for the back benches or life as an independent, according to gossip.


Smith, who's normally opposed to the conservatives, is voting with them on the civil rights issue. He's been making speeches about it, antagonizing his own party. He's said to be at risk of being demoted or dismissed from the party as a result.

The jargon:

  • Left winger- liberal progressive, formerly also meaning socialist, direct opposite of a conservative politician. Conservatives are usually referred to as right wingers.
  • Crossing the floor- voting with the other side of politics
  • Getting on the soap box- making public speeches
  • On the outer- marginalized, on the outer rim
  • Back benches- non-executive members of the party
  • Independent- not a member of the party, officially excommunicated, in the sense of the statement.

From the jargon, we can infer that the use of the expression back benches in context implies that Smith is currently a member of the front bench, or senior assembly group of the party which speaks for the party on such issues, but not for much longer.

Political idioms

Political idioms are usually based on their related political status and functions. If you're unfamiliar with how a political system operates and its current issues, it can be hard to follow the language:

The Minority Leader in the House today said that he was sick of the partisan politics obstructing so much committee and legislative work in Washington. The Majority leader later agreed that the influence of partisanship was becoming intolerable in terms of achieving results.

If you don't speak the language and know the structure of the political system, the most you're likely to get out of these two sentences is that two people in Washington aren't too pleased about something called partisan politics.

This was in fact the situation until recently, when both the Democrats and the Republicans were complaining about partisanship in the political system.

What they were talking about was the fact that Congressional committees and legislation had ground to a halt in a series of feuds between members based on party lines. The situation was literally causing chaos, and big backlogs of legislation for both houses of Congress.

That's implied by the statement in literal translation, but unless you understand the jargon and functions of the system, it doesn't tell you the full story directly.

To understand political jargon:

  • Learn the political processes
  • Learn the terminology and idiomatic usage
  • Follow the issues, because most political jargon relates to current matters
  • Following current affairs will give you the background to understand the issues, so you can see the logic of the political statements