The Most Popular Buzzwords this Election Season

  • Published on November 3rd, 2008

Change, climate change, gasoline.

If you think you’ve heard those words a lot from our presidential candidates, you’re right. The Global Language Monitor, which has been tracking the entire Obama/McCain showdown, puts them as the top three “buzzwords” in this election.

Most of us have played the Buzzwords board game, but at GLM, “political buzzwords are terms or phrases that become loaded with emotional freight beyond the normal meaning of the word.”

[social_buttons]For example, change used to be a simple, everyday word meaning anything from a change of clothes to changing one’s mind. Now, it’s turned into a promise of a different future for this country and a turnaround from the Bush-era policies. It’s difficult to hear the word and not think both Obama and McCain (though Obama’s motto, “Change We Need” gives him more of an edge on the word).


Climate change/global warming comes in second, says GLM, but it’s only a half of 1 percent away from the overall lead. So this means that the phrase is getting more attention, and also that it’s starting to take on a more weighted meaning. The question, though, that GLM can’t answer with its buzzwords is what kind of meaning it’s starting to take. Is it one of environmental activism, that people are finally realizing we have to do something about it before it’s too late? Or is it more of a political meaning, that the public is hearing it more from politicians and associating it with the policies suggested by the different candidates? Or is it neither – are the candidates just spouting it so much that’s it’s become a household word without being fully understood?

Nevertheless, there it is, coming in ahead of the “Iraq War,” “financial meltdown,” “raise taxes” and “that one.” “Lipstick” also made the list – I don’t think anyone in the American public is going to think of lipstick quite the same again after this election.

Gasoline comes in third, especially as prices continue to fall (does anyone else see prices almost below $2.00??!). “Price of oil” is meanwhile at spot no. 13. As gas prices climbed above $4 for most of the summer, these were definitely on voters’ minds. However, “drilling for oil in Alaska’s beautiful natural land” didn’t make the list.

Photo Credit: f/1.4 on Flickr under a Creative Commons License

About the Author

My name is Amanda, and I'm a recent grad from Michigan State University. At MSU I was involved in the environmental journalism program and have written for the school's environmental journal and E, The Environmental Magazine. I'm delving into freelancing now, and will spend the summer in NYC as an intern at NYC Parks and Recreation.