New Word: Election

Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

New Word #124

I am often confused by the word “landslide”, which originally means “the sliding down of a mass of earth or rock from a mountain”– it is obviously a disaster. Paradoxically this word also means overwhelming victory in an election. I think people who are more superstitious and more wary of life’s sudden ill luck will never use this word to describe a victory, but English is a more whimsical language and has its own subtle ways of mixing positives with negatives for some special effect that a non-native speaker like me will never comprehend.

Several days ago, I suddenly realized that I’ve never done a post about election vocabulary. Here I only listed a few, which I heard by watching the result of the mid-term election. I’ve been really surprised that the democrats have been doing so well. I can’t help thinking that the MAGA candidates or even Supreme Court judges like Clarence Thomas are probably secretly working for Democrats while ostensibly claim themselves to be Republicans. It’s unlikely but..


parliamentary system vs. presidential system: these are the most common systems of democracy that I know. India, Britain, Canada, Australia all have parliamentary system, while the U.S., France have presidential system. Mongolia has a semi-presidential system. I only know a little bit of the difference between the two: In a parliamentary system, people only vote for their local candidate, while in a presidential system, people directly vote for the president. In a parliamentary system, the debate in the parliament seems to be more interesting.

presidential, gubernatorial, municipal: these are different level of elections. Often the municipal election is also called mayoral election. Usually a county is bigger than a city. For example, Middlesex County here has many cities in it, including Edison. However if it is a big city like New York City, it includes five boroughs and each borough functions as a county. So it is a little confusing.

  • presidential: relating to presidency
  • gubernatorial: relating to a state governor or the office of state governor.
  • municipal: associated with or belonging to a city or town that has its own local government.

caucus: My imperfect understanding of this word is that in some states, each party holds caucus, like a kind of debate, to decide their candidates. Most states don’t hold caucus, but rather they just hold their primary election to decide on their own party candidate.

congressional district: There are 435 areas, each a congressional district, from which members are elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. It is quite puzzling how the congressional district is drawn, redrawn, more often than one would like to think. For example, due to population decline in New Jersey, there was one less representative for the state several years ago. And the district was redrawn and Middlesex County where I live lost its own representative and was split into two other district. Then when the Republican governor was gone, there was some kind of redrawing happening.

poll, exit poll: Poll has two meanings related with election. One is the process of voting, and the other is the surveying and recording of opinion. An exit poll is a poll of voters taken immediately after they have exited the polling stations.

swing state: It is also called battleground state, where the two major political parties have similar levels of support among voters, viewed as important in determining the overall result of a presidential election.

runoff: a further competition, election, race, etc., after a tie or inconclusive result.

special election: an election used to fill an office that has become vacant between general elections.

referendum: a general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision.

proposition: A proposition is a popular initiative, a measure or proposed legislation “proposed” to the members of a legislature or to voters.


incumbent: a political candidate who’s currently holding office. His or her opponent is called the challenger.

politicophobia: An aversion to politics or politicians.

millennial: the millennial generation refers to people born from 1981 to 1996

generation Z: the generation reaching adulthood in the second decade of the 21st century

candidate, voter, pollster, consultant, strategist, pundit: These are some people involved in the election, but there are certainly more. A pundit means an expert in a particular subject or field who is frequently called on to give opinions about it to the public.

Political Manipulation

gerrymander: manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class.

disfranchise: deprive (someone) of the right to vote.

political spin: the attempt to control or influence communication in order to deliver one’s preferred message

mudslinging: the use of insults and accusations, especially unjust ones, with the aim of damaging the reputation of an opponent.

disinformation: false information which is intended to mislead

misinformation: false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.

dog whistle: a subtly aimed political message which is intended for, and can only be understood by, a particular group.

Other Often Used Words

tally: calculate the total number of.

canvass: solicit votes from (electors in a constituency).

8 thoughts on “New Word: Election

  1. Just thought of another thing: “blue”and “red” states. In the UK (and probably other countries) red is associated with the left. Blue is associated with the conservatives in the UK. So US election maps are extremely confusing!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’d never considered your point about “landslide” before, but of course you are right. I guess it is positive for one side and negative for the other. Another geological metaphor is: “The tectonic plates are shifting.”

    I have a bit of an obsession with “the public” and “the general public”. Populists in the UK tend to use them as though they were synonymous with “right wing people”. The way a lot of public bodies use them, it’s almost like they mean “the little people”. I mean, policemen are also “members of the public” when they’re off duty! Mostly you could simply say “people” instead of the “the public”. Maybe this is just a UK thing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t have them at my fingertip right now, but I did feel the strange combination of positive and negative in the same word many times before. I should collect them and make a list. I don’t feel too much about it right now since English has been internalized by me, but in the past, I often encountered such confusion.

      It is true the word public means different things to different people in different occasions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s