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The Lipstick Express (minicast)

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Hockey mom, mavericky, snow machines, and—how could we forget that other memorable phrase from the 2008 presidential campaign?—lipstick on a pig. Some new and not-so-new terms leapt onto the national stage during Gov. Sarah Palin‘s run for the vice presidency. Grant discusses these expressions as our “Word of the Year 2008” series continues.

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We’re continuing our look at some of the words of the year of 2008. Last week we talked about the acronym PUMA.

When Sarah Palin took the stage this year as a surprise pick for the Republican vice-presidential nomination, the election changed. Her hugely popular public appearances, her good looks, and her role as a Washington outsider served as catalysts for new words and catchphrases.

For example, she described herself as a hockey mom.

It’s a decades-old term for someone who spends a great deal of time passionately aiding her children’s interest in the sport that uses a puck and a stick.

The only difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull, she was fond of saying, is lipstick.

So, when Barack Obama said in a speech, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” many people assumed he meant to call Palin a pig. The brouhaha about that was called Lipstick-gate by some press and commentators.

That’s not the only term that Caribou Barbie, as some people have called her, brought to the fore. Her constant use of the term maverick led writer and actor Tina Fey to use the word mavericky in her Saturday Night Live impressions of Palin. It simply means “having maverick-like qualities.”

Also, through interviews and background news stories, the other 49 states learned that Alaskans call snowmobiles snow machines, though there’s nothing new about that, and that they often refer to the country beyond Alaska as Outside.

That’s all about Sarah Palin-inspired words of the year. Next week we’ll talk about Olympic-related words of the year.


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