Words matter. With the primaries behind us and the actual election now underway, we voters will be bombarded with a tsunami of words over the next ninety days. Therefore it's important to have our election terminology well in hand.


This could be tedious, but it does not have to be. Putting a tongue-in-cheek twist on election language dates back to 1906. Ambrose Bierce was an American journalist and short story writer, most famous for his short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." But more to the point here, he created a satirical work that has come to be known as the “Devil's Dictionary,” in which he gave ironic definitions for many common English words. For example, Bierce defined a conservative as: “A statesman who is enamoured of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” (


With a tip of the cap to Bierce, the folks at the online news magazine Ozy have come up with “The Devil's Guide to the 2016 Election.” Their goal? “To see you through the heartburn, disillusionment and rampant cynicism that will be your constant news companions during the remainder of this election season.”


As with most satire, the definitions are humorous, but sometimes also contain a grain of truth or wisdom. For instance, you will hear every politician talk about restoring the “American Dream.” The Guide defines the American Dream as: “The birthright of every U.S. citizen to lease a marginally better automobile than the one their parents once owned.”


Of course, to achieve the dream you must have the freedom to do so, right? The Guide explains what freedom means: “My sacred right to be left to my own devices while I am plotting how to interfere with yours.”


To sort through all the hoo-hah is not an easy task. You see, voters may be well intentioned, but the Guide observes they are often: “Lost souls who repeatedly select the lesser of two evil roads only to find themselves right back in the ditch where they began.”


Listening to the candidates debate is of limited help because a debate is: “A nationally televised forum in which moderators provide candidates with alternating, 30-second opportunities to evade questioning.” As we all know, candidates often stretch the truth because a lie is: “What a politician does with his mouth when he is not eating.”


Stealthy big money donors further muddy the waters, because a donor is: “In a democratic republic, the primary instrument for expressing the will of the people; not to be confused with a voter.”


And at the top of the election food chain, the candidates are vying for an office where the winner might also be the loser, because the position of president is: “An office for which it necessary to raise and spend a billion dollars for the privilege of being vilified while living and having a high school named after you when you are dead.”


The good news is that this mind-numbing process will eventually come to an end on inauguration day: “A scepterless coronation with bleacher seats.” To guide you along the way, all of this terminology and more can be found at:


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns at and

John Auchter
Aug 5, 2016