Frankly...

A Berlitz guide to Washington English

Just as modern French-speakers who travel to Quebec often find the dialect of French Canadians to be archaic and quaint, English-speakers who visit Washington, D.C., are frequently bemused by the language spoken there. Though the Potomac dialect shares the alphabet and grammar of English, it has a vocabulary all its own. A few examples of Potomac phrases, followed by their English equivalents:

I have great respect for the senior senator.
I am about to drill my elderly colleague a new one.

We have full confidence in his integrity.
We will cut him loose by nightfall.

I don’t pay attention to the polls.
My job-approval rating is 32 percent.

I had some gals come over to the condo to give me a massage.
I paid for sex.

When we have something to announce, we’ll announce it.
We know the answer, but we’re not going to tell you.

Frankly …
The following statement is false.

You are either with us or against us.
You are against us.

We identified weapons of mass destruction–related program activities.
We could not find any weapons of mass destruction.

I hope we can work together in a bipartisan way.
I need to pick off one senator from the other party to pass this bill.

The president has always said …
The president is announcing a new position.

I don’t know how to get you to get it through your heads that it’s not new.
I am disappointed that you noticed that I switched positions.

I am the decider.
My authority is in question.

I am a commander guy.
My authority is all but gone.

This should not be a political issue.
My party has a winning political issue.

It’s time to stop playing politics.
The other party has a winning political issue.

As I said in my Wall Street Journal op-ed last week …
I am so important that I can quote myself.

Pockets of dead-enders are trying to reconstitute.
The enemy is winning.

They’re in the last throes, if you will.
The enemy has won.

Thank you for the very frank and candid discussion.
You just spit in my eye.

As long as needed and not one day longer.
We have no idea how long this will take.

War is my last choice.
The bombing begins in three weeks.

The American people don’t want open-ended fishing expeditions.
A member of my party is being investigated for wrongdoing.

Congress must fulfill its constitutional oversight obligation.
A member of the other party is being investigated for wrongdoing.

I will continue to do the people’s business.
I expect to be indicted.

Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post and the author of the recently published Homo Politicus: The Strange and Scary Tribes That Run Our Government (Doubleday), from which this has been adapted.
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