Monthly Archives: September 2015

Scott Walker Drops Out

The study of politics is always full of surprises. The past two weeks, two Republican presidential candidates have dropped out of the race even though the actual election is more than a year away. Rick Perry was perhaps not expected to win the primary, but Scott Walker was once considered a possible front-runner.   Walker’s decision to drop out came as a surprise to many experts in the media. For me, I was reminded of the ubiquitous nature of container metaphors. Linguists have known for years how we describe abstract concepts as if they are inside, outside or through boxes, pipes, or other containers such as people being insiders or outsiders, falling in love, clothes going out of style or a candidate dropping out of a race. Today I would like to share a few more metaphors of containers, talking about being outside. I will share metaphors of inside at another time.

blog - containers - outside boxout

We can talk about people or concepts metaphorically being out of containers. We may talk about being out of politics, out of money, out of time, etc.

Example: In 2000, George Bush won the election, so he was in the White House and Bill Clinton was out.


                  In politics, we can talk about people being outside of the normal political process. Sometimes this is a disadvantage if the candidate is seen as being inexperienced; other times, it can be an advantage if an opposing candidate seems to be too much of a Washington insider and does not care about the average American citizen.

Example: In 2008, many Americans were tired of politics in Washington, so they looked to Barack Obama, someone outside the current system, to bring new hope to the American people.

blog - containers - outside rainoutsider

                  Someone outside of the normal political system in a country or state is considered an outsider. 

Example: In local politics, it is almost impossible for an outsider to win an election. Most people vote for someone who comes from the local area and understands local problems.

come out

                  When a container is filled with solid or liquid materials, it is a common experience to see these materials coming out of the container when it is used. Metaphorically, this phrase has three meanings: 1) how programs or policies are created by politicians while they are in office; 2) how something occurs, e.g., how the process comes out in the end, and 3) how information is released secretly or accidentally. 

Example: During the beginning of the recession in late 2008, many Americans were surprised that many ideas coming out of the White House involved bailing out the Wall Street corporations who caused the economic collapse in the first place.

Example: In 2004, many people thought John Kerry would defeat George Bush in the presidential election; they were surprised when it came out in the end that President Bush retained the White House. 

Example: At the beginning of the Watergate Scandal in 1972, President Nixon first claimed that he had done nothing wrong, but then it came out in later trials that he was involved in a plot to secretly tape Democrats having a meeting in the Watergate Hotel. 


In some old English words, the verb and the preposition are reversed as in overwhelm, or underestimate. Similarly the concept of coming out can be written as outcome in the noun form.   In this sense, the outcome is the end result of some action or process.

Example: In a presidential election, many American voters stay up late on election night waiting to hear the final outcome.

A sign in a London tube station indicating the way to the street
A sign in a London tube station indicating the way to the street

a way out

When something or someone is trapped inside a container, they must find a way to get out of the confining space in order to be free. Finding a way out is used metaphorically to find a solution to a problem.

Example: Most of George Bush’s second term as president was bogged down by efforts of politicians from all sides to find a way out of the war in Iraq.

all out

When a container is completely empty, its contents are all removed or all out. In metaphorical terms, something that is done all out is done with complete effort.

Example: Even though Mitt Romney campaigned all out in the 2012 election, he came up short and lost the election to Barack Obama.


When something is done completely and there is one clear outcome, we can say that it is done outright, in the sense of out meaning outside the container, and right meaning correct.

Example: In the year 2000, there was a huge controversy about the vote count between George Bush and Al Gore; however, after the Supreme Court’s decision, George Bush was declared the outright winner.


As with the term outcome, outlast is also a form with the verb and preposition reversed from the normal order, in the sense of last as to endure. Thus, to outlast something or someone means to endure or continue longer than someone else.

Example: In the 2008 Democratic primary, Barack Obama outlasted Hillary Clinton and won the primary for their party.

An African rock python emerging from an egg
An African rock python emerging from an egg


In another sense of coming out, we talk about processes emerging as if they are snakes coming out of an egg. New governments, countries or policies may be said to be emerging.

Example: During the Iraq War, the emerging government in Baghdad was seen as a hope for ending the war and turning the country back over to the Iraqi people.

U.S. Army paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division descend to the ground after jumping out of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft
U.S. Army paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division descend to the ground after jumping out of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft

drop out

Large pieces of solid material may drop out of a container, such as potato from a large bag or paratroopers dropping out of an airplane.  In common terms, anything can drop out of a process or program if it is unplanned, as in teenagers who drop out of high school.

Example: In 2015, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dropped out of the race for president even before the Republican primary.


blog - container - squeeze ketchupsqueeze out

If a container holds a paste or semi-solid material, we say that it must be squeezed out as with toothpaste from a tube. In metaphorical terms, we can also squeeze out money, effort, votes, or other abstract concepts in a difficult situation.

Example: In any election, candidates campaign up to the last minute, trying to squeeze out as many votes as they can before the polls close.




Next time: Metaphors of Pope Francis

Ted Cruz Takes a Right Turn

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has been in the news lately. His blunt attacks on the current administration and his own party have endeared him to many conservative voters and allied him with the controversial front runner Donald Trump. A recent Time magazine article nicely summarizes his campaign successes so far and provides a treasure trove of political metaphors. The article is by author Alex Altman entitled Right Turns Only: Ted Cruz’s Radical Plan to Win the White House in the September 7/14 double issue, pages 52 – 55. Online you can read the article here if you are a subscriber.

Altman’s description includes a variety of conceptual metaphors. In addition to the usual sports and military metaphors, I will highlight several interesting examples from agriculture, cooking, religion and vehicles. All quotations are from the article. Some examples are listed several times if they contain more than one metaphor. All metaphors are in italics, not in the original.



blog - cruz - Pea_seed_germinatingseed money

Seeds are used to grow vegetables in a garden or farm. Seeds, metaphorically, are the starting points of a project. Likewise, seed money is the cash or capital used to finance an expensive project.   In this example, the authors of the article are explaining how Ted Cruz’s campaign style has attracted big donors.

Example: “The pitch has attracted plenty of seed money–more than $50 million between his campaign and affiliated super PACs, a total that ranks second only to Jeb Bush’s.”


take root

Trees have roots that not only hold the tree into the ground but symbolize the beginnings of the tree’s growth. The concept of roots is commonly used metaphorically to mean the origin of something.

Example: “At 13, he enrolled in an after-school program designed to inculcate the merits of free-market economics. By then his obsession with the Constitution had taken root.”


Specific farming terms or techniques can also be used in politics. A swath is a wide portion of a land recently plowed or harvested. The term swath may also be used to describe a large group of voters.

Example: “Cruz’s plan is to corner the market for Tea Party conservatives and compete for swaths of the evangelical and libertarian vote.”

blog - cruz - Milking-a-cow-pastmilk

Some farm animals such as dairy cows and goats are used to obtain their milk for human consumption. This process is known as milking. Metaphorically, if one takes advantage of a situation for a long period of time, this may also be known as milking. The author of the article, Alex Altman, describes Ted Cruz’s amazing childhood, having been raised in Canada by Cuban refugees who fled the Batista regime in the 1950s but implies that he talks about it too often to gain sympathy from his supporters.


Example: “Few politicians milk as much mileage from biography as Cruz.”



cooked up

Cooking is a way of preparing food to eat. It is normally a long process that takes a large number of ingredients and the skill of the chef. Metaphorically, the concept of cooking has a negative connotation, in that one can create something that is not true by cooking it up.

Example: “In recent weeks alone, he has dismissed global warming as a fiction cooked up by government stooges…”

canned jokes

In the 1800s, people starting preserving food by putting in tightly sealed jars and tin cans. The so-called canned food was great for keeping food from spoiling, but canned food also earned a reputation for not having much taste and always tasting the same no matter how it was cooked. In popular terms, a speech or set of ideas can be described as being canned if they are not original or are not very exciting.

Example: “His stump speech, delivered without notes or teleprompter, is precisely honed, down to the canned jokes and the pauses for emphasis.”

blog - cruz - sprinklessprinkles

Some desserts such as cookies or cupcakes often have colored sugar bits placed on top of the frosting. These small candies are called sprinkles because one must sprinkle them onto the surface from a small jar. Metaphorically, a person can sprinkle a public talk with various types of comments to add flavor or color to the speech.

Example: “He sprinkles his speeches with social cues–ain’ts and God-bless-yous and Chuck Norris jokes–that show the audience he’s one of them.”

blog - cruz - skewerskewer

Small pieces of meat can be cooked on a barbecue grill by putting all the pieces on a long thin metal rod called a skewer. The skewered meat can be cooked along with vegetables to make a wonderful meal. In popular terms, a person can be skewered by someone or a group of people by very strong criticism.

Example: “His taste for skewering his own party often surprises even those familiar with his scorched-earth style.”




A horse race involves people betting a lot of money on horses that they think can win. In a political campaign, people put a lot of money behind candidates whom they hope can win an election. Thus an election is often compared to a horse race.

Example: “The party has compressed the 2016 primary calendar into a few months in order to limit the damage the race inflicts on the eventual nominee.”


When the horses are running in a race, the jockeys (persons who ride the horses) must try to get in the best position possible so that they can win the race. Of course, every jockey wants to be on the inside track so they must fight to get where they want to be. This is called jockeying for position. In politics, we may also say that candidates must jockey for position to gain the best advantage and win the election.

Example: “So while rivals jockeyed for scraps of territory in Iowa and New Hampshire, Cruz barnstormed the nation’s reddest precincts in a bus with Right turns only plastered above the bumper.”

up for grabs

In basketball, the game begins by the referee throwing the ball straight up in the air. This is called the toss up. The player who can reach and control the ball after the toss up will win the ball for his or her team. In common terms, any competition or election that might be one by any player or team may be called a toss up or up for grabs.

Example: “Seven Southern states with about a third of the delegates needed to win the nomination are likely to be up for grabs on March 1, a Super Tuesday bonanza Cruz calls the SEC primary.”

040321-N-5862D-206   Millington, Tenn. (March 21, 2004) Ð Cmdr. Brad Neff takes the checkered flag for a victory lap at the Memphis Motor Speedway in the Sports Car Club of AmericaÕs (SCCA) first national race in the Mid-West division of the 2004 season. Cdr. Neff, a U.S. Navy submarine officer is currently stationed at the Navy Recruiting Command aboard Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Millington, Tenn. The 41-year-old Oakland, Calif. native is in his second year racing competitively in the Touring One (T-1) class in the SCCA amateur racing circuit. U.S. Navy photo by Chief PhotographerÕs Mate Chris Desmond. (RELEASED)
Millington, Tenn. (March 21, 2004) Cmdr. Brad Neff takes the checkered flag for a victory lap at the Memphis Motor Speedway in the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) first national race in the Mid-West division of the 2004 season. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Chris Desmond. (RELEASED)

victory lap

In car racing, the winning car will often take one more lap around the track so that the fans can cheer for the winner. The same is true of track and field runners. This lap is called the victory lap. In metaphorical terms, a person in business or politics who celebrates after a big win may be described as taking a victory lap.

Example: “Big crowds greeted him like a gridiron legend. But this was no victory lap. The Texas Senator has a new Southern strategy. Seven Southern states with about a third of the delegates needed to win the nomination are likely to be up for grabs on March 1, a Super Tuesday bonanza Cruz calls the SEC primary.”


The power of a normal engine can be greatly increased with the addition of a device called a turbocharger. Metaphorically, any significant increase in energy, money or progress may be referred to as turbocharging.

Example: “The first presidential debate had boosted his poll numbers and turbocharged his fundraising.”


Athletes need strong, muscular bodies to compete at the collegiate or professional level. Having muscle implies that one is strong and ready for competition. In politics, a person or group with muscle means that they are ready for a political battle.

Example: “Cruz boasts that he is the rare true conservative with the fundraising firepower and organizational muscle to slug it out with the GOP’s Establishment favorites through a grinding national campaign.”

Eli Manning of the New York Giants
Eli Manning of the New York Giants

throw a Hail Mary

In football, when a team is losing and has one last chance to win or tie the game, the quarterback may throw a long pass into the end zone hoping one of his receivers can catch it. The success of such a pass is so unlikely, people joke that you need to say a catholic Hail Mary prayer to have any chance of succeeding. Thus, throwing this type of pass is known as throwing a Hail Mary. In business or politics, trying to do something that is very unlikely to succeed is also known as a Hail Mary.

Example: “’It is unlikely to be possible for a candidate to do what some candidates in previous decades have done,’ Cruz explains, ‘which is go camp out in an early state, spend a year there, throw a Hail Mary and get enough momentum to win the nomination.’”



true believers

People who are completely faithful to their religion may be called true believers. In politics, the same phrase may be used to describe those who have complete faith in a political leader or certain political ideologies.

Example: “Cruz is convinced there are enough true believers to push a proven warrior into the White House.”

party faithful

In a specific metaphorical use of the concept of faith, we say that members of a political party are faithful to that party and will always vote for candidates and policies presented by that party.

Example: “When he preaches to the party faithful, Cruz ditches the lectern and roams the stage, carving up his targets in tightly constructed paragraphs.”

Buddhist monks on a pilgrimage in Thailand
Buddhist monks on a pilgrimage in Thailand


In some religions, people take long journeys to go to the birthplace of their faith or to see a beloved religious leader. This type of journey is called a pilgrimage. In politics, journeys by people to see their favorite politician may also be called a pilgrimage.

Example: “The southeast is a strange place for a political pilgrimage.”



blog - cruz - Road_Sign_No_Left_Turnright turns only

Our sense of what is left, right and center is derived from the orientation to our own bodies, e.g., left hand, right leg, etc. Historically, in politics, left indicated liberal and right indicated conservative. This usage dates to the French National Assembly in 1789 when the more conservative politicians sat to the right side of the president’s chair, while the liberal thinkers sat on the left. We still use these terms today. Interestingly, we have extended the meaning of left and right to turning directions while driving a vehicle, making a left turn indicates that one is becoming more liberal while making a right turn means becoming more conservative. Ted Cruz has capitalized on this metaphorical usage and uses a slogan of right turns only for his supporters.

Example: “So while rivals jockeyed for scraps of territory in Iowa and New Hampshire, Cruz barnstormed the nation’s reddest precincts in a bus with Right turns only plastered above the bumper.”


In the early 1800s, theatrical troupes put on plays in barns for local communities. This was known as barnstorming. The term took on a new meaning in the early 1900s when pilots with newly invented airplanes crisscrossed the country putting on air shows for small communities. In politics, candidates who visit all parts of the country giving campaign speeches may also be described as barnstorming.

Example: “So while rivals jockeyed for scraps of territory in Iowa and New Hampshire, Cruz barnstormed the nation’s reddest precincts in a bus with Right turns only plastered above the bumper.”


The word drive has many meanings. In the context of vehicles, to drive means to operate a vehicle. Figuratively, any action to move a process forward may also be known as driving.

Example: “Instead of softening his rhetoric, he believes a pure conservative message can drive millions of disaffected white and evangelical voters back to the polls.”




A military soldier is often called a warrior, i.e., one who goes to war. In politics, a person who fights for his or her principles in campaigns may also be called a warrior.

Example: “Cruz is convinced there are enough true believers to push a proven warrior into the White House.”

World War I soldiers marching in Toronto, May 1918
World War I soldiers marching in Toronto, May 1918

rank and file

Large groups of soldiers can be arranged in horizontal rows called ranks, and vertical columns called files. Commanding officers are not arranged in such ways. Thus, the rank and file soldiers are the hardworking soldiers who are not in high positions. Metaphorically, ordinary people in business and politics may be referred to as the rank and file if they loyally support their business leaders and politicians.

Example: “The reinvention prompts some Republicans to suggest the party-crasher routine is an act Cruz created as he watched the GOP rank and file lurch to the right during the early years of the Obama presidency.”

stand up and fight, lead the fight

In boxing and the military, strong boxers or soldiers must stand up and fight dangerous battles. Metaphorically, politicians also stand up and fight for their principles in campaigns, in Congress or in the presidency. Those in leadership roles may also be described as leading the fight. Ordinary citizens may also be described as standing up and fighting for their rights as well.

Example: “’Voters should ask every candidate, Show me where you’ve stood up and fought,’ Cruz explains, digging into a double cheeseburger with jalapeños at a Whataburger outside Houston.”

Example: “’What I ask activists to do is to pick the 10 or 12 most important fights of the last several years,’ Cruz says as his SUV wheels toward another book signing in Texas. On every big conservative battle, he says, from Obamacare to government spending to religious liberty, I’ve been leading the fight.’”

command an army

Military leaders are often called commanders who control their armies. Metaphorically, a politician may also be described as someone who is commanding the army of his or her supporters.

Example: “Cruz is a constitutional scholar who commands a populist army, a careful tactician who picks long-shot fights.”

battle grounds

The land where battles are fought are called battlegrounds. In politics, states in which voters may vote for either Democrats or Republicans are called battleground states when candidates fight for the votes for their party.

Example: “But if the 2016 battle is waged on those grounds, it may favor the fighter who only turns right.”

blog - war - Cannon_Firefirepower

A gun, rifle, or cannon can be described in terms of its explosive power depending on the amount of gunpowder used in its bullets or shells. This is also called firepower. Metaphorically, the ability to raise money or win elections in politics may be called firepower.

Example: “Cruz boasts that he is the rare true conservative with the fundraising firepower and organizational muscle to slug it out with the GOP’s Establishment favorites through a grinding national campaign.”


With guns as well as bows and arrows, people practice shooting their weapons by aiming at a target a long distance away. The literal target has been changed to mean a metaphorical goal in a process or project. In politics, candidates and elected officials try to please their constituents who may vote for them.   These voters may be referred to as the target audience.

Example: “The goal is to determine their target audience and feed each segment a message calibrated to sway them.”

long-shot fights, long-shot bid

To shoot at a target far away is called taking a long shot. The farther away the target, the less likely the person can accurately hit it. In common terms, a long shot is something that has a very low likelihood of happening. In politics, a long shot is a person who is not likely to win an election or an event that is not likely to happen. In the following examples, we see uses of long-shot fights and long-shot bids.

Example: “Cruz is a constitutional scholar who commands a populist army, a careful tactician who picks long-shot fights.”

Example: “But when Cruz launched a long-shot bid for the U.S. Senate in 2012, he campaigned as a self-styled insurgent.”

bog - cruz - scorched earth Kuwait1991
Iraqi soldiers set fire to oil pipelines during the First Gulf War in Kuwait in 1991.

scorched earth

In some military operations, an army will burn all of the land belonging to an enemy so that it is unusable. This strategy is known as a scorched earth policy. Metaphorically, criticism of an adversary that is done in a quick and brutal fashion may be described as a scorched earth policy or style.

Example: “His taste for skewering his own party often surprises even those familiar with his scorched-earth style.”

badge of honor

Military personnel who demonstrate extraordinary bravery in battle are often awarded medals or badges of honor for their heroism. In popular terms, any a person who is known for brave acts may be considered as someone metaphorically wearing a badge of honor.

Example: “From the time he arrived in the Senate in 2013, Cruz grasped that pariah status in Washington can be a powerful weapon, so he wears his colleagues’ contempt as a badge of honor.”

New Zealand soldiers in a trench in France in World War I
New Zealand soldiers in a trench in France in World War I

fighting trench warfare

During World War I, soldiers had to dig deep ditches or trenches to protect themselves from enemy attacks. This type of fighting wars was called fighting in the trenches. Metaphorically, politicians involved in complex negotiations or arguments may be described as fighting in the trenches or fighting trench warfare.

Example: “It’s entirely possible that one person wins Iowa, a different person wins New Hampshire, and a third wins South Carolina,” Cruz says. “Which means then you’re fighting trench warfare nationwide.”

dig in

The action of creating a trench for protection in a battle is sometimes known as digging in. Metaphorically, taking a firm stand on an issue and not budging from one’s position may also be known as digging in.

Example: “But with so many hopefuls like Cruz raising so much early money, the prospects of a costly, drawn-out fight are now very real. And Cruz is digging in for the long haul.”


            As I have mentioned many times in this space, I am always amazed that ordinary conversation and writing are filled with conceptual metaphors. Even a brief article (2300 words) by my count contains about 80 different metaphors.   I have only analyzed a portion of them here. While it is common to compare elections to sports competitions or wars, it is fascinating that we have metaphors based on cooking, farming or journeys as well. It is more evidence to support the theories of Lakoff and Johnson who have argued for years that metaphorically thinking is part of normal cognition. Comments and questions are always welcome!

Labor Day Metaphors

In honor of Labor Day this year, I thought I would share a few metaphors from business, commerce, buying, selling and working. Some of these examples I have shared in previous posts, but they are worth mentioning again here. As I have explained many times in this space, we derive conceptual metaphors from an incredible variety of human experiences. Not surprisingly, since everyone has to have a job to pay his or her bills, we can all relate to metaphors of work. Here a few key examples.



Products are anything produced by a company in a factory such as cars, brooms, computers, etc. People can also be products of the educational or political systems in which they were trained.

Example: In 2008, critics of Barack Obama complained that he was a product of corrupt Chicago politics.

blog - work - hula hoopnovelty candidate

                  A novelty is a product that is made and sold as something new and unusual that hopefully everyone will want to buy. These are usually toys such as hula-hoops or pet rocks. In real terms, the word novelty usually implies that the product is not very serious or useful. In politics, a novelty candidate is someone new to politics, has new ideas, but is not taken seriously by mainstream media or politicians.

Example:   As the first woman candidate for president in many years, Hillary Clinton tried to avoid the label of the novelty candidate.


                  Another word for making something is to manufacture it, as in a product from a factory. In metaphorical terms, someone can manufacture an idea, a problem or a reaction to something.

Example:   Sometimes politicians manufacture fear about some social problem so that the public will support them to spend money on solving the problem. 


In business, a trademark is a legal licensing of a certain name or picture that no one else can use. In politics, a trademark is something that it associated with a specific person.

Example:   John McCain showed his trademark honesty and straightforward talk in the 2008 presidential election. 

The First Bank of Hope, Arkansas
The First Bank of Hope, Arkansas


                  In business, the goal is to sell as many products as possible so that the company can make the most money. In politics, people can also sell ideas, policies or programs.

Example:   In 2009, Barack Obama had to sell the idea of using taxpayer money to rescue the banks from financial collapse. 

sell out

In business, to sell out of something means to sell the entire amount of products that the company had. This is a good thing for the company since they will make more money. However, there is another meaning of selling out that means giving up all of your ideas or values for another cause, usually money. In entertainment or politics, selling out is a bad thing to do, and the person will lose a great deal of respect.

Example:   If the governor of a state promises to lower taxes for small businesses then raises them instead, he will be accused of selling out.

tough sell

A product that is difficult to sell is called a tough sell. An expensive house or car, for example, would be tough sell for most people. In politics, a tough sell is an idea or program that not many people will like but a politician will try to sell it anyway.

Example:   During the Great Depression in the 1930s it was a tough sell for President Roosevelt to convince Congress to borrow money to create more jobs.


Peddling is another word for selling something, usually meaning that someone is going door-to-door or traveling to see the products. In politics, people can peddle ideas, programs, policies, or influence to do something for someone else.

Example:   Washington D.C. lobbyists who try to get members of Congress to spend money for their companies are often called influence peddlers.

Example:   In is first term, George W. Bush was peddling the idea of privatizing social security but the members of Congress were not buying. His ideas were not accepted.

blog - work - Snake-oilsnake oil salesmen

In the 1800s, before there were many doctors in small towns or federal regulations on medicine, anyone could sell anything and call it medicine. In China, people use to sell a type of snake oil as a pain reliever, although some people claim it did not help. Later, people called any type of fake medicine snake oil because they had no medicinal value. In popular terms, a snake oil salesman is someone who is trying to sell something that will not work or has no value.

Example:   People will not vote for a political candidate with wild new ideas if they think he is just a snake oil salesman.

with bells on

In the eastern United States in the 1800s, some peddlers traveled by horseback to sell their products. In some cases, they put bells on their horses so that the local people would know that they were coming. In modern terms, to do something with bells on means to do it with enthusiasm and complete support.

Example:   In the 2008 presidential election, people came out to vote for Barack Obama with bells on. He won with 53% of the vote while John McCain earned 46% of the vote.

The famous fishmongers at Seattle's Pike Place Market
The famous fishmongers at Seattle’s Pike Place Market


Monger is an old word for a peddler or salesman. For example, a fishmonger is a fish salesman. The word monger used as a verb means to sell something. In politics, someone who supports wars or tries to sell the idea of going to war with another country is a warmonger.

Example:   During World War II, Adolf Hitler was the ultimate warmonger since he tried to take over the world with wars of aggression.


                  A person who tries to scare the American public without evidence of real danger is sometimes called a fearmonger.

Example:   After the 9/11 attacks, everyone became afraid of terrorists. There was no need for fearmongering politicians. It was a real attack. 

cost /cost votes

We say that everything costs money to buy. In metaphorical terms, things can have more than a monetary cost, e.g., we can say that “the car accident cost him his life.” In political terms, an action by a politician or political party can have a cost in terms of votes in an election.

Example:   Some say that John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as vice president nominee was the best idea he ever had; others say that it cost him the election.


To be able to afford something means that one has enough money to buy something. As with the word cost, the word afford can have other meanings besides money. Usually used in a negative sense, the phrase cannot afford something means that the person or group will be worse off with a negative result if some action is not taken.

Example:   Teachers say that we cannot afford to cut funding for education even if it costs a lot of money.

Example:   A president cannot afford to look weak when dealing with terrorists. He or she must be firm and use military action if necessary.

blog - business - punch the clockpunching the clock

In many factories, workers must mark the time that they arrive for work by sticking a card into a machine that punches or stamps the time directly on the card. This process is usually called punching the clock. In metaphorical terms, punching the clock means one is ready to begin or end something.

Example:   Critics of the War in Iraq claimed that the Bush administration already had the clock punched for invading Iraq when the terrorists attacked New York in 2001.


During government or business transactions, the final decision is often printed on the documents with a rubber stamp filled with ink. The stamp may be used to officially record the date, or status of a transaction. In popular terms, to stamp something means to label it with the views of a particular person, group or political party.

Example:   Ronald Reagan put his stamp on economic policies by cutting taxes on businesses.

rubber stamp

In popular terms, to rubber stamp something means to officially approve something without thinking of or fighting for alternatives.

Example:   A good president does not rubber stamp every spending bill that comes in the oval office. He or she must consider the results of each bill carefully and consider every alternative. 

by all accounts

Every business must keep track of the money they spend and the money they earn. These records of money transaction are called accounts. One can tell how a business is doing by looking at all of their accounts. We also use the phrase by all accounts to indicate that the situation has been well researched.

Example:   By all accounts, Herbert Hoover was a very nice man, but he was not a good president.

signature move

                  After all transactions are complete in business or government, the people involved must sign their names on the document to make it official. Each person’s signature is unique and very important to their identity. In politics, business and entertainment, famous people are said to have signature moves, i.e., something that they often do that is unique to them.

Example:   During his presidency, Ronald Reagan’s signature move was to cut taxes on corporations so that they could get more profits and hire more workers.

blog - business - revolving doorrevolving door

Many large business and government office buildings in big cities have revolving doors at the front entrance. A revolving door is never completely open or closed but constantly alternates between the two so that people can go in and out at the same time. In politics, a revolving door policy occurs when staff members are hired from a certain pool of people, especially when leaders of companies are hired to work for the government, or when former government officials work as lobbyists for the departments they used to regulate.

Example:   During his tenure as president, George W. Bush was criticized for having a revolving door in his administration especially when industry leaders were hired as government regulators.

water cooler topic

Most offices have a water cooler from which the employees can get a drink of cold water. Normally, the water cooler is a popular place for people to meet and have conversations about what is going on in their office or in the world. A water cooler topic is something exciting that happened recently and everyone is talking about.

Example:   In 2015, when Hillary Clinton had a second chance of becoming the first female president, her candidacy was the water cooler topic for many months.


By the way, without getting too political myself, allow me to add the following comment: if you have part or all of this Labor Day weekend off from work, you can probably thank a union. Despite the rantings and ravings of some presidential candidates against unions, historically unions have made our workplaces much more safe, secure, and well paid. I am a proud member of the teachers’ union at our college. Here is a list I have seen recently to remind us of our debt of gratitude to our union brothers and sisters across the United States.

36 Reasons Why You Should Thank a Union

  1. Weekends
  2. All Breaks at Work, including your Lunch Breaks
  3. Paid Vacation
  4. FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)
  5. Sick Leave
  6. Social Security
  7. Minimum Wage
  8. Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)
  9. 8-Hour Work Day
  10. Overtime Pay
  11. Child Labor Laws
  12. Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  13. 40 Hour Work Week
  14. Worker’s Compensation (Worker’s Comp)
  15. Unemployment Insurance
  16. Pensions
  17. Workplace Safety Standards and Regulations
  18. Employer Health Care Insurance
  19. Collective Bargaining Rights for Employees
  20. Wrongful Termination Laws
  21. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  22. Whistleblower Protection Laws
  23. Employee Polygraph Protect Act (Prohibits Employer from using a lie detector test on an employee)
  24. Veteran’s Employment and Training Services (VETS)
  25. Compensation increases and Evaluations (Raises)
  26. Sexual Harassment Laws
  27. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  28. Holiday Pay
  29. Employer Dental, Life, and Vision Insurance
  30. Privacy Rights
  31. Pregnancy and Parental Leave
  32. Military Leave
  33. The Right to Strike
  34. Public Education for Children
  35. Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 (Requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work)
  36. Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States


Have a great weekend!