‘Oh, He’s Totally Mubaraking': When Politicians Become Slang

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Oxford Dictionaries Online, the younger, hipper cousin of the OED, proposed an idea in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution (or at least this first leg of it): To make Mubarak a verb.

Possible meanings — based on their sifting through social media suggestions — include “to stick to something like glue,” “to refuse to leave,” or “to fail to take a hint.”

(More on TIME.com: See pictures of Hosni Mubarak’s rise and fall)

Given that he did eventually take the hint and agree to leave, that meaning may well not stick. There are also plenty of other, better-established words he’d be competing with for the verbal space. But there is a niche that the deposed leader has really cornered the market on: wearing a suit that appears to be pinstriped but is in fact covered in miniature repetitions of his name. Hence, Mubarak might better mean “to dress in a self-promotional way” or “to ready oneself for arrest by the fashion police.”

And Hosni isn’t, by a country mile, the only political leader to be repackaged as a slang term.

The President was an adjective roundabouts the time he was elected, though the connotations were much more flattering than Mubarak’s. A New York Times article presents a good example of usage:

Last week, if you wanted to use the latest slang to tell a friend he was cool, you could have called him “Obama,” as in: “Dude, you’re rocking the new Pre phone? You are so Obama.”

Those were the high times for the President. His name has been through plenty of other iterations already, depending on which in-group — the left or the right — is coming up with the term. (Just a small sample of what his opponents would like to appropriate his name for can be found with an Urban Dictionary search.)

Ronald Reagan was recently manifested into a new slang verb on 30 Rock. Alec Baldwin, who plays a thoroughly conservative, wealthy and cut-throat businessman, explains that Reaganing is to go 24 hours without making a single mistake. It is a more specific and higher-threshold version of being “in the zone.” (A preview of the episode, where his character, Jack, starts with coining inoventually and continues to be flawless, can be seen here.)

There are more obvious terms, like Lincoln meaning a $5 bill or George Washingtons generally meaning money. And according to the newly published Green’s Dictionary of Slang, a George Washington also used to be code for a “tall tale,” which is, perhaps, exactly what you get for trying to convince people that you cannot tell a lie.

The possiblities are really endless, so long as politicians continue to be high-profile and divisive. The question is which terms will stand the test of time. NewsFeed, for one, hopes Mubarak makes the cut.

(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 buzzwords of 2010)

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