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It's often said that politicians are masters of the art of speaking without saying anything of importance. To be good at your job, certain skills are crucial, such as making promises you know you can’t keep, skirting issues you suspect are too hot to handle, inserting your own agendas when no one’s looking and being fluent in the language of gobbledygook.
All of this has to be accomplished with a straight face.

This got me thinking about whether our politicians are aware of the origins of many of the words and phrases they throw around like confetti.

Let’s start with those politicians, given to irrational and sometimes violent behaviour or going berserk, as they say. The word comes from the Viking days when men ran amok wearing nothing but bear skins. Sorry, I didn’t see any reference to red berets.

You often hear people saying some politicians talk a lot of claptrap, but did you know that in the old days some theatres actually employed people to bribe audiences to applaud even in the worst of productions - a strategy that was referred to as claptrap.

What about opportunistic politicians who get into positions of power by “jumping on the bandwagon”? Before mass media in the US, candidates drummed up support by parading through the streets on a wagon with a small band, prompting some locals to jump on it to show their support.

“Slush funds” are dirty words in politics but where did the term originate? In the old sailing days, the fat from boiling down meat brought on board from the last port was stored by the ship’s cook. It was known as slush, which the cook and the purser quietly shared and used to bribe people. Mmmmm!

When political parties disagree, they are said to be at loggerheads. In old hand-to-hand battles at sea, a favourite weapon was a heavy ball of iron attached to a chain and a long handle, called a loggerhead. That could be fun in the House today. To conclude, what about two words politicians have difficulty telling the difference between, truth and lies.

An old fable has it that truth and falsehood went for a swim, leaving their clothes on shore. Falsehood came out of the water first and put on truth’s clothes.

Truth, refusing to don the clothes of falsehood, went naked. Hence the expression, naked truth.

Acknowledgement must be given to Noel P Crighton for his book Why Do We Say That?

Sunday Tribune