Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 10 09:53:29 UTC 2011

Wilson may correct me on this, but is one of Obama's aides Australian?

> Internal Revenue Service mugs and Homeland Security sweatshirts may
> soon become collector’s items.
> President Obama is set to unveil an executive order on Wednesday aimed
> at cutting wasteful spending on excess travel, printing, cell phones
> and government “swag.”
> The swag under fire includes plaques, clothing, mugs and other
> agency-identified items distributed to employees.

The closest I see in OED is

> 11. A great quantity of something (now chiefly Austral. and N.Z.); a
> large draught of liquor (dial.). (Cf. Sc. swack.)

The next closest is

> 10. Austral. and N.Z. The bundle of personal belongings carried by a
> traveller in the bush, a tramp, or a miner. Freq. in colloq. phrases
> to hump the swag: see to hump one's swag (bluey, drum) at hump v. 2;
> on the swag: on one's travels.

Indeed, the WH PR refers to "swag".

> This morning, President Obama will sign an Executive Order that will
> cut waste and promote more efficient spending across the federal
> government. With this Order, the President is directing agencies to
> reduce spending on travel; limit the number of information technology
> devices (e.g. cell phones, smartphones, tablets, laptops) that can be
> issued to individual employees; stop unnecessarily printing documents
> that can be posted online; shrink the executive fleet of the federal
> government; and *stop using taxpayer dollars to buy swag -- the
> plaques, clothing, and other unnecessary promotional items that
> agencies purchase*.
> ...
> Within 45 days, agencies will develop plans to reduce combined costs
> in the following areas to 20 percent below Fiscal Year 2010 levels by
> Fiscal Year 2013.
> ...
> 5) Stop Swag – or Government Promotional Handouts: The Executive Order
> directs agencies to stop wasting taxpayer money on non-essential items
> used for promotional purposes, such as clothing, mugs, and non-work
> related gadgets.
> * For instance, several months ago the Department of the Treasury
> issued a directive to all of its bureaus to avoid purchasing any goods
> that could be considered frivolous or unnecessary, and to ensure that
> all purchases have a clear nexus with the Department’s mission and
> operations.

The corresponding WH blog post by Janet Napolitano contains similar
language, but no mention of swag can be found in the EO itself (
http://goo.gl/IU0Ua ).

AHD lists largely the same categories as the OED, although in a somewhat
different order and grouping.

> 1.a. An ornamental drapery or curtain draped in a curve between two
> points.
> b. An ornamental festoon of flowers or fruit.
> c. A carving or plaster molding of such an ornament.
> 2. Slang Stolen property; loot.
> 3. Australian The pack or bundle containing the personal belongings of
> a swagman.

MWOLD is even more curt--nothing but "sway" and "festoon".

Not so Wiktionary:

> Handouts, freebies, or giveaways, such as those handed out at conventions.

Unlike most Wiktionary entries, this one comes with a quote:

> 2011, Mark Henry, Battle of the Network Zombies
> “Make sure to take some swag on your way out!” I called.
> He stooped a bit in mid-trot and snatched a small gold bag out of the
> basket at the door. The contents were mostly shit, a few drink tickets
> to the Well of Souls, VIP status at Convent, that sort of thing.

The fact that both the White House and The Hill needed to explain what
"swag" is also speaks to its relative recency.


PS: Wilson usually uses a completely different "swag" (and less
frequently than "wag").

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list