The assholocracy

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Somewhat to my surprise, the Wall Street Journal didn't merely report that "Donald Trump wants a say in who gets the nomination, so he's hosting a presidential debate, holding out the prospect of his endorsement and threatening an independent run" (i.e., behaving like a kingmaker who expects to be honored and courted by the rival candidates); it even quoted candidate Jon Huntsman's remarkably lewd comment about why he's not going to attend the Trump "debate": Huntsman said, "I'm not going to kiss his ring, and I'm not going to kiss any other part of his anatomy."

That vivid and rather gross remark reminded me of how right my extremely cool son Calvin is about the word he wants to see win the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year contest. I had been talking to Calvin one day about the ghastly crew of obnoxious multi-millionaires who dominate the newspapers, and how they keep threatening to achieve success even in the political arena. Calvin pointed out to me both that we need a new political term for the concept of being ruled by such men, and that there already is such a term. We are living, he observed, in the age of the assholocracy.

He's right, you know. This relatively new word is really useful. Even if we ignore the whole scandal of modern banking, and the rigged election in Russia, and all the scandals in Italy (by the man who The Economist dubbed "the man who screwed a whole country"), and all the disgusting behavior and political clout of of the Murdoch press empire, there is so much else. The contest for the Republican presidential nomination illustrates as well as any other arena.

Donald Trump is famous here in Scotland. Famous for his cruel treatment of the ordinary people he has tried hard to oust from their homes so he can get control of their land, which adjoins the golf resort he is trying to build north of Aberdeen. (There is an excellent documentary on his unpleasant dealings: You've Been Trumped. The capacity crowd in Edinburgh the night I saw it broke into applause, and it was not for the Donald.) To see Trump trying to play a decisive role in choosing the next Republican presidential candidate even as he threatens to split their vote by running against them as an independent really interests us over here. It should be even more interesting to those of you who are on the left hand side of the Atlantic.

The thought of Trump having political power and influence convinces me that assholocracy is going to get my vote at the American Dialect Society's voting session. It's not just to make sure we don't find some stupid compositional phrase winning (I shudder at the thought of having to battle against my good friend Ben Zimmer over such a thing, but you can already see the way he's leaning on the phrase issue), no; it's because assholocracy is a terse and valuable addition to the vocabulary.

The whole Arab Spring has been a process of bringing down assholocracies. Italy suffered under one until recently. Russia and Syria are now protesting against their own crooked assholocracies, and the only reason North Korea and Zimbabwe don't do the same is that they daren't, they could be killed. We in the West are going to need a term for being ruled by assholocrats, because they continue to threaten to exercise power over huge parts of the earth's population even if not (yet) over us.

Assholocracy needs more Google hits, though; it's a rare word thus far (105 Ghits as of right now, combining the correct spelling assholocracy and the variant spelling assholeocracy). Rare words don't win. There are several weeks to go before the ADS vote. Those of you with blogs, use the word, visibly and often. Let's get to work and make sure we at least have the appropriate vocabulary items for dealing with the situation should it arise.

Think about the phrase "President Trump". Or even just "presidential candidate hand-picked and endorsed by Trump". Doesn't it chill you to the bone? Can ridicule by Doonesbury get rid of him? You'd better be very sure. So get out there and prepare the lexicographical ground. With words, we can win. Without the words, we don't have the concepts: just as the Eskimos have many apposite words for . . . no, never mind that; bad example. Just push the word assholocracy wherever you have influence is what I'm saying.

Update, midnight EST, 13 December: The raw Google hits (Ghits) for the two spellings combined went up from 105 to 142 during the evening. That's over 35 percent. We can win this thing.

Update, 8 a.m. EST, 14 December: The combined count is now up to 421. (Of those, 374 are the pseudo-Greek spelling that I prefer, without the e. But spelling doesn't matter too much here; there are other words that are sometimes spelled with a medial e and sometimes without: judg[e]ment is an example.) The Ghits have quadrupled since yesterday.

Update, 1 p.m. EST, 16 December: The spelling assholocracy alone now gets 7,950 Ghits. Language Log (for that is surely the mighty force behind this trend) has increased the web appearances of the word by two orders of magnitude (roughly multiplying them by 100).

Update, 9 p.m. PST, 2 January: I write from California on the eve of my departure for the ADS meeting in Portland, and the top-line estimate for the number of hits is "about 13,800".

[Comments are closed because now is not the time for comments: now is the time for action.]

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