My sister, after spending over a decade away from the Washington area, recently moved back to attend graduate school. As she had been away a good long time, and was only in her early teens when our family decamped for Orlando, Florida (a move we all regretted, trust me), she thought it wise to take the time to refamiliarize herself with the area. And, being a child of an employee of the American Automobile Association (hence the move to Florida), she was well versed in the lore of guidebooks and TripTiks. So she went out and purchased several.
One of the things she bought was a pocket-sized guide to Washington from a publisher named Inside Out. As a package, Inside Out's D.C. guide, revised in 2005, is pretty good. It has maps that unfold and enlarge like origami butterflies, a decent -- if not exhaustive -- run down on area attractions, a compass for those moments when you forget how to count or spell, and even a pen with a tiny light...you know, for those times when it's better to light one tiny penlight than curse the darkness. In short, it's a nice and inoffensive little guide. Until you get to the last page.
Unfortunately, that's where the good people at Inside Out attempt to lay out an essential glossary of D.C.-centric terminology, and, my oh my, are they ever out of their depths. The effort ranges from the adorably parochial to the hopelessly stupid, and throughout, it is hilarious. So much so that the best thing one could possibly do, is quote the whole thing at length, which we'll do after the jump. I promise you, I am making none of this up.
Titled "Speak it," the glossary is divided into two sections. The first deals specifically with the culture of politics. It is actually sort of cute in the way it strains to be so cynical.
DC politi-speak is what you will hear from the politicians and their entourages in bars and restaurants throughout the city.
Here is what their jargon really means
bounce effect: Occurs when a presidential candidate does better than expected in the primaries, causing a "bounce" out of the primary. In other words, the candidate receives increased media attention, which leads to more funding.
the big tent: In which everyone is welcome in a political party, as in "Step right up and join our party, we need your vote (but don't expect anything in return)."
handler: The marketers who sell the product, which in this case just happens to be the political candidate.
pol: One of the more pleasant names for a politician
pork (pork barrel): Excess "fat" in the budget that only benefits a politician's constituents, for instance the building of a highway or bridge to expedite local traffic
soft money: Money that cannot be legally given to a federal candidate so is given instead to the candidate's political party to spend in a way that will benefit the candidate.
spin: To mainpulate the message for your own purposes. This is what press secretaries do for a living.
straw poll: An unofficial, nonbinding trial vote, used by some state parties during a presidential primary race.
wonk: flunky steeped in arcane governmental minutiae such as details of Sweden's public plumbing system.
Yes. Those are indeed, the NINE TERMS you will hear in every bar and restaurant. If only Inside Out had stopped there!
Because the next section is on street lingo. They're not precisely wrong in these usages...some are tantalizingly close to correct, so some attempt at doing the research and getting it right was made. It's just that the whole section is just a little off (and a lot dated), as if it was prepared by some impossibly earnest alien being who was probably sent by his overlords to study Sweden's public plumbing system.
Meanwhile out there on the streets, there is a whole other language going down.
bama: A very uncool person.
bangin': Something very good.
beat your feet: To join in on an improvised go-go dance competition. [Ed. Note: And what tourist doesn't find themselves faced with that opportunity?]
bumpin': Also something very good.
cosign: To support someone in an argument.
cuz: Short for cousin.
don't wrap me up: This is a request for another person to make themselves clear.
off the hook: An all-encompassing superlative used long and often in street talk.
rollers: Police. "The rollers locked me up."
So there you have it, faithful readers! Leave your best sentences in the comments. And don't wrap me up, wonks!