In my latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, published today, I take a look as some of the lingo that's been coined during the current presidential campaign, such as Bittergate, under the bus, and this:
Shoulder-pad feminists: "Some women in their 30s, 40s and early-50s who favor Barack Obama have a phrase to describe what they don't like about Hillary Clinton: Shoulder-pad feminism." So wrote Maureen Dowd in a March 5 New York Times op-ed column that went on to define the phrase as symbolizing the "men-are-pigs, woe-is-me, sisters-must-stick-together, pantsuits-are-powerful era that Hillary's campaign has lately revived with a vengeance." The phrase—and the rest of Dowd's column about racism and sexism—struck a tender nerve among many readers. Shoulder pads make an interesting metaphor: out of fashion in women's clothing for more than a decade, they suggest both historic achievement and sartorial not-with-it-ness. The image of broadened shoulders also evokes football-like aggression and unwelcome pushiness. Feminist has also become a highly charged word: for many young women, it seems to carry no positive implications at all (such as equal pay for equal work), but only stridency, man-hating, and—those shoulder pads again—bad fashion choices.
Full access is restricted to subscribers, but a year's subscription is only $19.95 and well worth it, if you ask this biased observer. The new "executive producer" of VT--that's apparently what they call an editor nowadays-- is Ben Zimmer, formerly of Oxford University Press, and he's got some great ideas about VT's future. Read here about how VT enlisted the help of opera singers to record the pronunications of 150,000 words and phrases in VT's lexical database. Ben is also writing a new column, Word Routes, available to nonsubscribers (although you have to subscribe to leave a comment). And his two-part interview with New York Times columnist William Safire, whose revised Safire's Political Dictionary was just published, is full of insights from a long career in words and writing.
Oh, and don't forget the main attraction: the visual thesaurus itself. Type in a word and watch a constellation of synonyms bloom around your entry, then click on any word in the constellation to generate still more synonyms. Available in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, and Spanish!