ChrisWeigant.com

Brinksmanship-pocalypse-mageddon

[ Posted Tuesday, July 26th, 2011 – 17:18 PDT ]

We're all sick and tired of the debt ceiling debate, so I'm just going off on a complete tangent today for a little grammar rant. Hope no one minds.

What brought this on was seeing a headline which tried to shoehorn the word "debt" into the term "Armageddon" in a truly cringe-worthy fashion. I believe it was spelled "Armadebton," but I refuse to go look it up to check, so there.

We seem to be in a post-millennial period here, where just about any news story can be fit into either the "Armageddon" mold; or its cousin, the "Apocalypse." Both words have that neat-o keen-o factor, and both refer to Earth-shattering events. So perhaps it is natural that they be overused in this manner. But I have to say, I'm hoping the whole thing is just a fad which will fade quickly.

So far, the trend shows no signs of going away, though. When a large snowstorm hit Washington a year ago, it was immediately called either "Snowmageddon" or the "Snowpocalypse," depending on the editor's whim. Now, personally, I've always thought "blizzard" was a pretty cool word, but apparently it just wasn't sufficiently end-of-the-world-ish for the media types. A few weekends ago, a planned freeway shutdown in Los Angeles was touted as "Carmageddon" (I guess "Carpocalypse" didn't sound right, or something). This one was even funnier, because the anticipated traffic jam simply did not appear, even after all the media hype.

And now we've got "Debtpocalypse" looming in the political world. Oh, you just know someone's going to use that term in the next few days, right? Sigh.

The truly strange thing about all of this is that it really should have happened back in the 1990s. There's even a word for it -- millenarianism. Rising interest in focusing on the End Times should really have peaked right before the Christian calendar's odometer turned over a three-zeros figure for only the second time. That was the time one might reasonably have expected overusage of the terms for the final battle between good and evil (Armageddon) and the end of the world as we know it (the Apocalypse). Instead, we all worried about the much-hipper and snappier "Y2K" problem in all our computers (except, of course, those of us who owned Macintoshes).

Back in the 1990s, another fad term was in vogue with headline-writers across America, who were wont to abuse it freely. The phrase actually came from Saddam Hussein, when he promised America "the mother of all battles" in the first Iraq War. Such a maternal onslaught never materialized, however, and the phrase was quickly adapted for just about any subject under the sun. Which was quite easy to do, since it did not involve coining a new word, but rather just attaching anything to the end of: "The mother of all...".

Now, about twelve years too late, we seem to be stuck with bastardized "-pocalypses" and "-mageddons." But every time I see one of these pop up, I can't help but think this trend would have fallen into the "better never than late" category.

Maybe it's just me. Always a possibility.

Personally, rather than worrying about squeezing "debt" into one of the terms for what used to be known online as "teotwawki" (or just "teotw," depending on whether you felt like tacking on "as we know it" to the end of the phrase "the end of the world," of course), I'm going to get back to the real grammar problem of the day: is "brinkmanship" or "brinksmanship" the proper term? The former (ess-less) term is the original one, favored by dictionaries. Loosely translated, it is defined as the quality of taking things to the brink. Since brink is singular, we get brinkmanship. But the term itself hasn't been around that long, and English adapts and changes over time, as we all know. The problem with brinkmanship is that it's a bit of a tongue-twister. Adding the "s" makes it a lot easier to say. And there are precedents -- a "landsman" is a man who lives or works the (singular) land. The "s" was obviously stuck in there to make the word easier to speak. Not as convincingly, there is "sportsmanship," since the root term could be either singular (sport) or plural (sports). Oh well, nobody ever claimed English was consistent, right?

Since I noticed this problem (in the debt ceiling fracas, over the past few weeks), what is interesting is that the news media are not consistent, either. I've seen "brinkmanship" and "brinksmanship" in the same newspaper -- even on the same day. So it really does seem to be a term in flux.

But that's no comfort for our editorial staff, who prizes our own consistency in style and usage. Faced with two choices, we must boldly grasp one and leave the other by the semantic wayside. Normally, we give a lot of deference to a term's origins, and a fair amount of weight to the reference books. Which is why we still use "TelePrompTer" here, by way of an example.

But this time, we're going to come down on the side of modernism, and go with "brinksmanship" (unless there is a hue and outcry from our readers, of course, which we also give lots of deference to, especially on grammatical matters). Our logic for doing so is weak, yet convincing: every time I use the word in conversation, it comes out as "brinksmanship." You may argue that we've just been brainwashed by the folks who pick up the money from banks in armored cars, but we honestly feel this not to be the case. Ahem.

Somehow, we feel that this issue is going to come up not just in the final week of Debtpocalypsemageddon, but also in the next year and a half of divided government in Washington. So, from now on, the partisans will be performing brinksmanship, at least when you read about them here.

The ChrisWeigant.com editorial staff has spoken. So mote it be.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

23 Comments on “Brinksmanship-pocalypse-mageddon”

  1. [1] 
    akadjian wrote:

    "Armadebton" sounds like the dumbest Transformer ever. In fact, it probably would have never made it as a Transformer, but would have been a Gobot instead.

    I do have to say I wouldn't have read your article if it hadn't been for the title though :).

    I kind of wish Obama would just come out and say, "Enough is enough". I'm going to invoke the 14th amendment and say we have to pay our bills and just raise it.

    I think he would have a ton of support. Let the legal challenges fly where they may.

    Pfffftttt.
    -David

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I'm with David ... I really like the title, too. :)

  3. [3] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Not that I should admit to knowing this, or playing it for countless hours but "Carmageddon" was taken from a classic violent video driving game from the 90's. Basically think Death Race 2000...

    Armadebton has been the running headline for The Daily Show for a couple of weeks, which does a variation of armageddon/apocalypse every crisis, major or minor, they report on.

  4. [4] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    The brinksmanship, the Armadebton, all the terms written seriously or used by the Daily Show, are just colored bubbles, no more or less than the floating of bills by both sides that each side knows the other side will not pass. Histrionics of the press, or lies of the politicians; nothing more.

    There won't be a default. The social security checks will go out. But the government will run out clearable money. Most likely will be a rolling, cumulating governmental shutdown, spreading slowly to the states and then to the cities. The public may blame the Republicans now, but the memory is short in the face of the Alternative Reality machinery, and the guy whose desk is where the Buck Stops will take the fall. And then, the reality of the revolution, the redefinition of the mandate of the government of the Republic, can begin its implementation phase in earnest, attended and enforced by economic hardship.

    It's always risky to make calls of historical events. Usually the impact of events turns out to be fleeting. But not this time. I believe that yesterday marked the end of an epoch. Not August 2nd (which date will be extended, magically, if need be; there's already stories to that effect). Not the day a private company named S&P will announce the downgrade of the debt of the USA.

    Yesterday, two events defined the beginning of the end of the US dollar as the reserve currency of choice for the world, and also the end of the debt instruments of the United States being deemed to be without risk, and thereby, the unchallengeable foundation of the world's financial markets.

    The first was very visible for anyone who knew where to look. The currency markets rapidly and without hesitation began to "bake in" (to use a market term for a revaluation to account for an event) the diminished state of the US Dollar. While each currency took its own trajectory, it began at 8:30 PM EST, and was largely finished by 11 PM. A new low valuation, and close to a new low valuation, were set against the Swiss and Japanese currencies. Against the Europeans, it was simply a large move, not a record move. The Europeans, after all, are in the room where, when the US sneezes, everyone catches the same cold. There will be fits and starts going forward, of course. But it's not coming back. The full faith and trust is now no faith and disgust.

    The other event was the de-facto, market force, downgrade of the US debt.

    The CME is the exchange that not only trades the futures on all the raw materials from grain to gold, but is also one of the entities chosen to bring clearing and transparency under the derivatives market reforms of the Dodd-Frank Act, which will now never be implemented. The CME announced quietly that, effective immediately, US Treasury bills and bonds would be "haircut" when taken as collateral. This term of art means that the collateral value is less than the face value: it's a recognition of risk. The debt has been downgraded. Not by a bunch of accountants without vested interest, but by one of the largest exchanges in the world. By next week, with high certitude, all exchanges will follow, everywhere. And then, in course, the banks.

    So there's not going to be Armageddon on August 2nd. The damage has been done, the box has been opened by the two sides tugging at it, and the ill humors have been released. Whatever the politicans don't do, there's no going back now.

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    David,

    "Armadebton" sounds like the dumbest Transformer ever. In fact, it probably would have never made it as a Transformer, but would have been a Gobot instead.

    THAT was funny!! :D

    I kind of wish Obama would just come out and say, "Enough is enough". I'm going to invoke the 14th amendment and say we have to pay our bills and just raise it.

    WOW.. You would be the LAST one I would expect to encourage a monarchy...

    But, sadly, there is where Obama has taken our Republic... When King Obama ignored the War Powers Act, he set a precedence for future Presidents to act like kings.

    For all the slights and attacks on Bush for acting unilaterally, it took a Democrat (The One no less) to actually act like Democrats accused Bush of acting...

    LB,

    That was a pretty informative comment... Made even more so by the fact that I actually understood it.... :D

    Kudos..

    Michale.....

  6. [6] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    As long as we're on linguistic rants: I would really like it if everyone would stop capitalizing "tea party." Surprisingly, this has nothing to do with my opinion of tea party politics and everything to do with the fact there is no "the Tea Party." Instead, there are at least six distinct national organizations calling themselves tea parties. Not one of them is THE tea party, and they exhibit rivalries (just ask Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation about Mark Meckler and the Tea Party Patriots, for instance). What isn't monolithic shouldn't be treated as a monolith.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    LeaningBlue,

    I'm afraid your commentary, this time, leaves quite a lot to be desired, in terms of credibility and the all important context.

    Although, as a rant, I've seen worse.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    LeaningBlue,

    Michale said, "That was a pretty informative comment... Made even more so by the fact that I actually understood it.... :D

    I think I'll rest my case. :)

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    Liz,

    Michale said, "That was a pretty informative comment... Made even more so by the fact that I actually understood it.... :D

    I think I'll rest my case. :)

    Ouch!

    "And the ref takes a point away!!"
    -Jim Carrey, LIAR LIAR

    :D

    LB, don't take it personally. Liz is fiercely defensive of the Biden/Obama administration... :D

    Michale.....

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    That's the Obama/BIDEN/Geithner administration for you and LB. To be clear.

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    Touche' :D

    Michale.....

  12. [12] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    Elizabeth,

    Well, yes, I suppose it was a rant. I fear for the nation, but I also am saddened because I've accepted the reality that, barring a miracle, the President has lost re-election. And that is when the real nightmare will begin. Therefore, I am angry as well as sad.

    But nothing I wrote factually was inaccurate or exaggerated; all of it continues to build momentum. Here are the headlines (some not copied, of course, but representatively so, I assure you) from the Washington Wire blog's news roll, from the time after I wrote that, to the time I write this:

    Democrats' Budget Cuts Fall Short of Estimate
    For Obama, Golden Opportunity Is Fading
    Survey: Voters Prefer "Balanced" Approach
    Jim Rogers: U.S. Already Has Lost AAA Rating
    Debt Deadlock Boosts Yen, Swiss Franc
    U.S. Stock Futures Slide
    Debt Fears Lift Gold Prices
    Default Worries Hit U.K. Bank Shares
    BarCap: 11th Hour Deal Expected, Rating Downgrade Likely
    Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia Down
    BofA-ML: AAA U.S. Credit Rating Likely Cut
    UBS: Real Debt Ceiling Deadline is Aug 8-10
    Downgrade Risks Rising

    Two weeks ago, I was sure that the establishment core of the Republican party would put the radical right back on its leash. They didn't, for reasons that go beyond my understanding. Perhaps they can't. The Tea Party saw this as THE issue, and the President fell into the trap that radicals have always lain for rational opponents. (Perhaps that should be "...always laid...".I've never gotten them clear, and now, at The End of The World, it's too late for grammatical re-education. A joke, Elizibeth).

    Please take a look at the Wikipedia entry "Reality-based community," which reflects, in three or four paragraphs, what I believe has happened to us.

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    LB,

    but I also am saddened because I've accepted the reality that, barring a miracle, the President has lost re-election. And that is when the real nightmare will begin.

    While I agree with you that Obama is likely to follow the Jimmy Carter mold and be a one-termer, it does not necessarily follow that a "nightmare" will ensue..

    Michale.....

  14. [14] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    Michale, I (though not you) am afraid that we'll get the chance to see...

    But more importantly, it's spreading! Someone who should know better just delivered this update:

    "...yield on Aug. 4 T-bills has jumped to nearly 0.12%, more than doubling this morning, in a sign of anxiety about a looming Debtpocalypse."

    Just give me a rope, I'll duct tape it to the ceiling of the elevator, put it around my neck, press the down button, and try to end it all now.

  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:

    LB,

    Since you seem to be most knowledgeable regarding this issue, I am curious as to what your opinion is on invoking the 14th??

    Michale.....

  16. [16] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    I'm quite in favor of it. Practically and politically, it's probably the only proactive and and smart thing to do at this point.

    The language is there, of course, to basically tell the Europeans at the time: "yeah, we'll honor all of our debts; but those incurred or caused by the rebellion: not at all, ever." Some might argue that the intent there doesn't match this circumstance. But "intent" doesn't matter. It is there, on the face of the document, and that can be shown to the American people. Let the courts rangle over the "interpretation," and we all can watch if the strict constructionists become the opportune construers.

    But for now, I have this image of a Looming Debtpocalypse stuck in my mind like a Lloyd Weber melody. Although, I prefer it to Armadebton. The former image is of, like, a velociraptor on steroids. The latter sounds like it should be a town in Pennsylvania.

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    LB,

    But for now, I have this image of a Looming Debtpocalypse stuck in my mind like a Lloyd Weber melody. Although, I prefer it to Armadebton. The former image is of, like, a velociraptor on steroids. The latter sounds like it should be a town in Pennsylvania.

    I may disagree with most of what you say, but I sure as hell like the way you say it! :D

    Here's an interesting discussion we had about the 14th, just a bit before you joined us..

    http://www.chrisweigant.com/2011/07/08/ftp172/

    I posted a link there on why invoking the 14th would be a very VERY bad idea for Obama and the country..

    But it would be a Gold Mine (a GOLD MINE, I tell ya!! :D) for the Republicans...

    Michale.....

  18. [18] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    Yeah, but what else can he do? Left to the intransigence, he's beat. The economy is going down from here to the election, likely one way or the other.

    This way, the political scholars will yelp that it's just too Cromwellian for them (although we at least wouldn't have to listen to anyone on Fox News talk about that), and the House would likely impeach him.

    That would rally the base, and provide more disingenuous, hypocritical foaming at the mouth for the Middle to watch. It worked for Clinton's poll numbers, and he probably would have been re-elected if he could have run.

    I will read that thread, but I'm "sneaking" this discussion in over some work.

  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:

    Yeah, but what else can he do? Left to the intransigence, he's beat. The economy is going down from here to the election, likely one way or the other.

    Agreed...

    Barring another terrorist attack that makes 9/11 look like a simple domestic, I don't see how Obama can salvage a re-election...

    This way, the political scholars will yelp that it's just too Cromwellian for them (although we at least wouldn't have to listen to anyone on Fox News talk about that), and the House would likely impeach him.

    That would rally the base, and provide more disingenuous, hypocritical foaming at the mouth for the Middle to watch. It worked for Clinton's poll numbers, and he probably would have been re-elected if he could have run.

    Clinton had the Independents and NPAs on his side in all that...

    Obama's burned way too many bridges with that group for them to come to his rescue...

    I will read that thread, but I'm "sneaking" this discussion in over some work.

    Yea, me too.. I am my own boss, but sometimes the REAL boss (my wife) can be a slave driver... :D

    Michale.....

  20. [20] 
    dsws wrote:

    The Tea Party movement is a faction within the Republican Party. "Tea Party" is not the name of a political party, but it is nonetheless a proper name, and should be capitalized. A tea party, by contrast, is what little girls do with their dolls in such works of children's literature as A Bargain for Frances.

  21. [21] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    David and Elizabeth -

    My intial title was "Grammar-pocalypse-mageddon" but I changed it at the last minute to spice it up. Heh.

    BashiBazouk -

    Death Race 2000 had a sequel? I remember playing the original arcade game -- before it was yanked off the market by parental outrage. It was pretty cheesy (this was before the movie was even made, I think, but I may be wrong).

    Well, I hate to be on the other side of The Daily Show but I stand by what I wrote -- I'm hoping the fad fades.

    LeaningBlue -

    So, do you think we'll get downgraded? Will the chances of this happening be greater or not with Boehner's plan, or Reid's plan? What about the 14th Amendment Obama ploy?

    And since you seem to know this stuff, has anyone started suggesting that oil be traded in another currency than dollars? I've always (mistakenly, perhaps) seen that as a benchmark from which there'd be no going back, personally. But then, I'll freely admit, I don't know much about global economics at all.

    Michale -

    Presidents always view executive power much differently when they're actually in the Oval Office -- Democrat and Republican. The funny thing is, when there are power struggles between the branches, there are actually very little rules for how it's supposed to all play out. Constitutional crises are actually built in to the Constitution. This is why, for instance, Bush folks ignored subpoenas from Congress, without retaliation. When a president pushes into grey areas, there are simply no real hardcut precedents for Congress (or, for that matter, the Supreme Court) to follow.

    Osborne -

    Heh. Well, the editorial board here decided to capitalize Tea Party a long time ago (I could even dig the column up if you're interested), and we're sticking to it. We do so mostly because we'd dearly love to see the GOP split into Republicans and Tea Partiers, and we're just helping that process along, as it were.

    Heh.

    LeaningBlue[12] -

    Well, I think it's a bit early to call the 2012 election, myself. A lot can happen in the intervening time, for one, and for two, let's see who the GOP nominates.

    :-)

    LeaningBlue[16] -

    What's amazed me is with all the talk about the 14th option, nobody's looked into the precedents with the phrase. It's made it to the Supreme Court at least once, maybe twice, so there should be some intelligent analysis out there, but I haven't seen any yet. Perhaps I'm looking in the wrong places, though.

    The Pennsylvania comment was funny, I have to agree!

    Michale[19] -

    You don't see how Obama can salvage a re-election? Two words for you: Michele Bachmann.

    Heh. Maybe 2012 is the year Republicans snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, eh? Worked wonders for Christine O'Donnell, didn't it?

    Heh.

    dsws -

    Aha! An even better rationale! You've got to have some differentiation between a tea party and the Tea Party. Good point!

    :-)

    -CW

  22. [22] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    As the kids online say, "OMG!"

    Out of the estimable pages of The New Yorker, comes the following, from an article this week which is really worth reading on its own over the stupidity of the debt ceiling debate:

    As the economist Thomas Schelling showed many years ago, “It does not always help to be, or to be believed to be, fully rational, coolheaded, and in control of oneself” when it comes to brinksmanship.

    Note the "S".

    Now, the editorial standards and style guide of The New Yorker are the most strict and anal of any -- in the entire country. For instance, they still use the correct English accents everyone else has forgotten (such as in "reëlection" and "coöperation" and even "belovéd"). Not to mention their insistence on such esoterica as removing the town name from their italicized newspaper titles ("the Washington Post"). What I'm trying to say here is that these guys are the gold standard of editorial pickiness in America.

    And they use the "S" version.

    Case closed, as far as we're concerned. It's "brinksmanship." End of story.

    :-)

    -CW

  23. [23] 
    Michale wrote:

    You don't see how Obama can salvage a re-election? Two words for you: Michele Bachmann.

    Heh. Maybe 2012 is the year Republicans snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, eh? Worked wonders for Christine O'Donnell, didn't it?

    Or Bob Dole... :D

    Michale.....

Comments for this article are closed.
[Powered by WordPress]