Quotations from 2005

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Mon Apr 25 04:00:58 UTC 2005

On Sun, 24 Apr 2005 16:58:04 -0400, Baker, John <JMB at STRADLEY.COM> wrote:

>Another possibility would be "nuclear option," in reference to a risky
>but devastating tactic, and particularly in reference to the pending
>Republican proposal to rule that Presidential nominations cannot be
>filibustered in the Senate.  The broader metaphorical use of the term
>has been around for some years; the use specific to the Senate dispute
>has become popular only this year, but has been around at least since a
>4/7/2003 article in The New Republic (actually published, of course,
>some days previously):
><<And Lott, apparently still itching to play field marshal, added that
>he had a plan of his own that might allow Republicans to circumvent a
>filibuster, which takes 60 votes to break, and confirm Estrada with a
>simple 51-vote majority. Lott wouldn't give details but ominously warned
>that his plan would mean going "nuclear."

As Josh Marshall has pointed out on his Talking Points Memo blog,
Republican leaders are now distancing themselves from the term "nuclear
option", even claiming that it's a Democratic smear (despite Lott's
coinage of the term). They now prefer to call it the "constitutional
option", which is presumably more appealing to focus groups than the scary
"nuclear" menace (cf. the shift from "nuclear magnetic resonance" to
"magnetic resonance imaging").

Some media outlets, including the New York Times, are dutifully following
this change of vocabulary, much as Social Security "privatization" and
"private accounts" magically transformed into "personalization" and
"personal accounts".  Cue Lakoff on framing...


--Ben Zimmer

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