Cookies must be enabled to use this website.

Book Image Not Available Book Image Not Available
Book details
  • Genre:POLITICAL SCIENCE
  • SubGenre:Government / National
  • Language:English
  • Pages:290
  • Format:Paperback
  • Paperback ISBN:9781098322205

The Talk of Washington

An Uncommon Dictionary of the Language of Government

by C. Ronald Kimberling View author's profile page

Book Image Not Available Book Image Not Available
Overview

As the subtitle of this volume suggests, The Talk of Washington is, indeed, an "uncommon dictionary." It is also an unconventional dictionary, somewhat irreverent at times and certainly distanced in perspective from the Washington Insider who tends to look at the rest of us from the wrong end of the telescope. Irreverent though it may be, The Talk of Washington is a useful reference work for our time, one that provides a richly-hued snapshot of political life during the Reagan years. The book should appeal to multiple audiences: Washington Insiders and Real People, power-brokers and journalists, government employees and those in the private sector, scholars and diplomats, novelists and social activists.

Description

For the better part of a decade, the authors were part of the Washington scene, as a White House senior policy adviser, Assistant Education Secretary, consultant to Federal agencies, and commissioner of a leading international grant-making agency. They became more aware than ever of the need for a straightforward guide to the language of power, a tool to provide access to the terminology used every day inside the Beltway. The aim of The Talk of Washington was to be comprehensive but not exhaustive. In selecting the 1,500 terms for this volume's word list, the authors eliminated hundreds of potential entries on the grounds that some words and phrases were either too specialized or too common or were available in other special dictionaries. They created a balanced selection that would enable readers to explore the worlds of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. There is jargon used by the foreign affairs and military establishments as well as the domestic agency bureaucracies. To reveal the totality of the Capital scene, the book includes terms used by lobbyists and the media. Finally, in a category that presented difficult selection challenges, the authors chose to "flavor" their lexicographic stew with some spicy slang drawn from ordinary Beltway speech, in cases where a term has become a key part of the D.C. vocabulary or else has been especially adapted to the linguistic conventions of power. Another factor influencing these selections was the belief that an open discussion of prejudices is the best way of getting rid of them. How authoritative is The Talk of Washington? Where appropriate, the authors relied on the advice of Washington-based professionals in economics, diplomacy, regulation, law, national security, and other fields in validating terms so they could employ the soundest information available. Ultimately, they listened to and read the lexicon of those in authority, in and out of government, and allowed their language to be their measure. In reading The Talk of Washington, you will find that most of the 1,500 terms on the word list fall into one of five broad categories. First, there are the abundant acronyms, the alphabet soup of Federal agencies, including familiar ones -- C.IA., F.B.I., FED, -- and the not-so-familiar but still important: FEMA, G.O.J., N.SA., O.E.O.B., U.S.G. From inside these and other agencies pour out the formal language of Federal power, what we call technical talk: appropriation, balance of payments, comparable worth, hardened, insurgency, passback, rescission, sole source, and supergrade. Less formal are the many slang terms or Washingtonese, unofficial and often odd-sounding words and phrases heard virtually nowhere else: ballistic, borked, bum bag, murder board, rollout, short list, spin doctor, zero-out -- terms whose very usage helps define who is and is not a Washington Insider. Then, there are the ever-present euphemisms, tepid bureaucratic substitutions for the plain truth, where vague and often innocent sounding words disguise a more blunt appraisal: ambitious, building a record, cleaning house, courageous, full and frank discussion, least less developed countries, and mental health day. Lastly, there is the eerie category of common words with new and unexpected meanings, terms that people outside the Beltway could scarcely imagine would be used in such ways.

About the author

Currently a Research Fellow for The Independent Institute, C. Ronald Kimberling has served as president or chancellor of four institutions of higher education over a career that spans five decades. From 1981-88, he held several senior leadership posts in the U.S. Department of Education. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the youngest-ever Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education in 1986, the nation's highest-ranking official for higher education. He also served as Executive Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. The author earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Southern California. He also holds three earned master's degree and five honorary doctorates. He has published and presented extensively on the subject of education and politics and has served on numerous corporate, higher education, and governmental boards and commissions. He is the author of "Kenneth Burke's Dramatism and Popular Arts" and is a frequent contributor to "The Hill."  The biography of Dr. Kimberling's co-author, the late Dan J. Smith, appears in the book. 

Thanks for submitting a review!

Your review will need to be approved by the author before being posted.

See Inside
Front Cover

Loading book cover...

Book Image Not Available Book Image Not Available
Session Expiration WarningYour session is due to expire.

Your online session is due to expire shortly.
Would you like to extend your session and remain logged in?

Session Expired

Your session has expired.We're sorry, but your online session has expired.
Please log back into your account to continue.