Definitions

Sorry, no definitions found.

Etymologies

Sorry, no etymologies found.

Examples

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Did anyone ever end up making a dog-whistles list?

    July 27, 2011

  • I think "pro-life" may not be a coded term in that everyone knows what it means, but it definitely describes a set of values that are not obvious when you hear it. It means specifically "pro-letting-fetuses-live", not "pro-living-things-in-general". Or even "pro-letting-humans-live", since sometimes it involves legislation that makes it hard to save a mother's life in time. It's specifically pro-not-killing-a-very-specific-thing. More accurately it's just anti-abortion.

    "Anti-" is such a negative prefix, though, that even aside from the way "pro-life" is a manipulative phrase-- who wants to imply that they are "anti-life" by contrast?-- I can see why those groups don't want to use it. "Anti-" anything has a sort of restrictive, nasty sound. I suppose they could achieve more clarity by calling themselves "pro-fetus", but even that carries a little bit of the "pro-life" manipulation; no one wants to say they are "anti-fetus" either...

    October 31, 2007

  • Circuses are too noisy. I'll take the bread, though.

    October 30, 2007

  • How about "universal health care?" I can think of a dozen more accurate labels. Of course they involve scary concepts like socialism, but then again that's the truth. Universal means nothing but bread and circuses for everyone, which, come to think of it, sounds rather nice. ;-)

    October 30, 2007

  • Yeah, but refugees isn't a code word, and anyway the hurricane is kind of... um... weren't we talking about dog whistles? Amazing how that works.

    October 30, 2007

  • In the dawn of time, when Wordie was just a twinkle in John's eye, there was this hurricane, and the residents of New Orleans fled, seeking refuge in nearby cities. Therefore, they were refugees. This seemed all well and good, except they got terribly angry about the word. When Houston was hit by a hurricane some time later, I resolved not to let my friends there seek refuge at my apartment unless they called themselves refugees, but luckily, they didn't have to evacuate.

    October 30, 2007

  • Exactly, c_b and uselessness. You "noun" someone into non-existence in both cases. And c_b, your point seems relevant to me! :-)

    October 30, 2007

  • I think reesetee was referring to the use of "illegal" as a noun. Taking away the noun itself, and using the adjective AS the noun, makes the person and the act interchangeable.

    This isn't such a semantic issue when applied to immigrants, as it has clear political and social resonance. But when it's applied to historical terms, lots of people say we're just arguing semantics. For example, saying "enslaved people" instead of "slaves." To call someone a "slave" is to identify their person, their whole existence, with the role that was imposed on them by another. Calling them "enslaved" puts the act of enslaving back on someone else.

    Now *that* needed a non-sequitur alert.

    October 30, 2007

  • That's a good point. "Illegal immigration" is a perfectly valid term; labeling the people who do it as "illegal immigrants," not so much. Of course, it loses its subtlety when you start hearing them referred to as just illegals. To some, it seems, that's their defining characteristic. To the point of nouning them that way.

    October 30, 2007

  • Related to this: a recent NYT editorial discusses the use of "illegal" (as in "illegal immigrants") as a code word in the sense that it "modifies not the crime but the whole person." As c_b said below, I'm not trying to launch a political discussion--but the "code word" part caught my attention.

    October 30, 2007

  • I hear what you're saying, chained_bear. In the case of that radio ad, it wasn't so much a code, in the sense of hidden meanings, as it was an openly understood synonym: liberal was synonymous with shithead. As an outsider, though, it was code to me.

    Although there may have been coded nuances: my opponent has foreign values, etc. In that sense, all words are signifiers, and so maybe all language is dog-whistling.

    Suddenly I'm feeling very French. Maybe I'm a liberal after all!

    October 30, 2007

  • I agree, John. They've been bled of meaning in the sense that "conservatives" actually espouse some policies that are "liberal," and vice versa.

    But that doesn't necessarily mean they're code. I think code terms are understandable to their... ahem... own dogs, but others won't necessarily read (or be aware of) the subtext. For terms like "conservative" and "liberal," even though their meanings don't always make sense to everyone, they are fairly well understood by both conservatives and liberals. And everyone in between.

    Except for that "don't always make sense" part, that is.

    October 30, 2007

  • That's a whole other issue altogether -- today's definitions of "conservative" and "liberal" are a good deal different from those of a hundred years ago. In the past few decades alone there's been a dramatic shift. To a certain degree, the two ends of the spectrum appear to have completely swapped positions several times in history, yet from another angle they are actually pretty similar to each other in approach today (they disagree over various issues, but not in how to enact the changes they desire).

    October 29, 2007

  • "Liberal" and "conservative" have been bled of meaning. Last year kad and I were driving across northern Montana and heard a local election ad on the radio where one candidate accused the other of being an "eastern liberal". Shortly thereafter we heard an ad from the other guy, who was clearly not a liberal, and sounded like he'd never left the state. In fact, it turned out that both were Republicans from the right-wing fringe: guns for everyone, mandatory Christian prayer in school and the court, pro war, anti birth control, the works (but, oddly, pro ag subsidy. hm.). They were calling each other "eastern liberals" the same way you might call someone "baby killer".

    I'm a "conservative," sort of, but it didn't make us feel very welcome -- we hopped in our Prius and hightailed it back to Massachusetts :-)

    October 29, 2007

  • That's a good one too, is there a counterpart on the conservative side? Maybe traditional, but that doesn't have quite the same strong implications as "if you're not a liberal, you're AGAINST progress!" :-) It would be nice if advocacy groups on all sides of the political spectrum could embrace a little truth-in-advertising.

    October 29, 2007

  • Or how about the use of "progressive" as code for "liberal," which is a perfectly good word itself, but it's become a pejorative in some circles.

    Note: I'm purposely keeping the focus on the words here. I'm not trying to ignite any kind of political discussion beyond the use of words. (Not that anyone suggested otherwise, but...)

    October 29, 2007

  • Ideologies aside, I think they're both baddies for participating in such a practice.

    October 29, 2007

  • Ah, but it is designed to confuse the masses. And to make them donate to the goodies to use against the baddies.

    October 29, 2007

  • I just love how rhetoric-steeped both of them are: if you're not pro-life, you must be anti-life, or pro-death, and if you're not pro-choice you must be anti-choice or perhaps pro-slavery. I do wish people could be objective and not have to propagandize all the labels. Only confuses the masses, really. If only to a certain degree, making it harder to put oneself in the shoes of the opposing side because of the vilification.

    October 29, 2007

  • Well-defined and not particularly code phrases, either--though they are political inventions. I think everyone understands what they mean.

    October 29, 2007

  • I think social conservative is a bit of a dog-whistle. I'm not sure about "pro-life" and "pro-choice." Those are pretty well defined.

    October 29, 2007

  • Exactly, palooka and c_b. Coded and awful.

    October 29, 2007

  • But it is definitely a code phrase! I bet we could come up with a bunch of them. Actually, maybe someone already did!

    October 29, 2007

  • "Family Values" means our family values in opposition to any family values that may be different. It's intolerance.

    October 29, 2007

  • ...does that mean pro-gay must be anti-life?

    Thanks for posting the real meaning of that code--it isn't about family values at all. In fact, it's craptacular!

    But it's definitely a code phrase. I think that's why it was brought up here on the dog-whistle page.

    October 29, 2007

  • "Family Values" means pro-life and anti-gay.

    October 29, 2007

  • Now there's a code phrase I'd rather not ever hear again.

    October 29, 2007

  • They still occasionally do that, skipvia--southern politicians using "states' rights," I mean--though I think that now, it encompasses more code than just on racial issues.

    It's kind of like "family values," I think.

    October 29, 2007

  • Interesting. In the South, politicians used term "states rights" to signal their support of racial segregation well into the sixties.

    October 29, 2007

  • Amazing.

    October 29, 2007

  • Wow. I knew this type of politics existed, but didn't know there was a term for it. Thanks, kewpid! (I think!)

    October 28, 2007

  • Shamefully, this seems to be an Australian invention.

    “…a type of political campaigning or speechmaking using coded language, which appears to mean one thing to the general population but which has a different or more specific meaning for a targeted subgroup of the audience.”

    October 28, 2007