After watching and listening to mainstream media news reports of the presidential race, you may have begun to realize that our journalists use words in a different way than the rest of us. This is because they are highly trained news experts who have developed a precise technical language in order to explain things more exactly. So to help you decipher their coverage, I’d like to offer a partial glossary of terms that may come in handy over the next couple of months.
Let’s begin with the word gaffe. Now and then you may hear a news “person” say something like, “Mitt Romney made a gaffe!” or “Mitt Romney’s foreign trip was full of gaffes!” or “Wow, that Barack Obama, he’s so darned wonderful, he never makes a gaffe!” and you may wonder what that particular word means.
Gaffe comes from the french word for “hook.” A gaffe is something a Republican says that is absolutely true, but that can be twisted like a hook to sound false or embarrassing by the journalist using the gaffe. For instance, when Mitt Romney recently said that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that cultural differences between the Israelis and Palestinians accounted for Israel’s greater success, he was trying, in his silly, fumbling way, to say that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel and that cultural differences between the Israelis and Palestinians accounted for Israel’s greater success. But even though these statements are not only wholly factual but also obvious, a chronically dishonest PLO official pretended to be outraged, thus giving journalists the opportunity to put in “the gaffe.”