The 2016 campaign season hasn’t just been exceptionally weird; it’s been exceptionally long. Last week’s historical nadir is quickly forgotten, overshadowed by some new and equally bizarre occurrence. One byproduct of this—apart from national malaise, the crumbling of essential civic institutions, and booming ratings at CNN—is that it can be tough to recall just what and who the key people, things, and terms of the campaign have been.

Ambrose Bierce would likely have enjoyed this election, insofar as he enjoyed anything. Cynical, misanthropic glee was his specialty. In 1906, the great Ohio-born writer published the first edition of what is now known as The Devil’s Dictionary, a series of sardonic definitions of words. (Relevant sample: “Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”) But Bierce isn’t around to update his definitions, having disappeared in 1913 in Mexico, which somehow seems appropriate to this year’s race. With apologies to him, here’s a devil’s glossary of the 2016 campaign.


Aleppo moment (n.): a destructive event, occurring either to cities in Syria or to Libertarian presidential campaigns

Alt-right (n.): a clever rebranding effort launched by internet trolls who realized that fascism and white supremacy had bad reputations

Basketball ring (n.):  piece of sporting equipment from which hang the tatters of Ted Cruz’s hopes in the Indiana primary

Berniebro (n.): a white man, age 18 to 25, with a serious grudge against the mainstream media, a subscription to Jacobin, and a newfound, intense interest in local races

Bigly (adv.): See big-league

Big-league (adj.): an all-purpose superlative popularized by Donald Trump and misheard by a majority of Americans; level above Jeb Bush league. See also yuuuge

Birtherism (n.): the lie, propagated by certain conservative media outlets, that you can get elected president while claiming that the African American incumbent is not a U.S. citizen

Blacks, The (n.): an ethnic group, sequestered entirely within inner cities, with which Donald Trump has a great relationship, yet from which he mysteriously draws low single-digit support

Breitbart (n.): the Trump campaign's communications staff

Mr. Brexit (n.): a nickname bestowed upon himself by a man ignorant of the namesake referendum

Carpet-bomb (v.): Ted Cruz’s strategy for fighting ISIS; not to be confused with the wholly unrelated, actual military tactic known as carpet-bombing

Comey (v.): to successfully alienate Congress, the Justice Department, both parties, and both presidential candidates

Crooked (adj.): lyin’

Cuck (n.): alt-right slang, short for “cuckservative”; commonly applied to anyone who does not support a proud philanderer for president

Cyber, The (n.): how a 70-year-old who does not use email describes the internet. The cyber is believed to be very, very tough, and maybe hardly doable.

Deplorables, basket of (n.): much to her chagrin, Hillary Clinton’s pithiest coinage of the election

Dispel with (v.): a method of dismissing either Barack Obama’s ignorance or Marco Rubio’s presidential aspirations

Dishonest media (n.): an entirely redundant phrase

Drain the swamp (v.): to replace your party hacks and cronies with my own

Drape-maker (n.): the profession of Hugh Rodham, father of Hillary Clinton; one plausible explanation for why she has been measuring the drapes since spring 2016

Drudge Report (n.): America’s most trusted pollster

Dumpster fire (n.):  the year 2016

Emails (var: damn emails) (n.): a method of communication that no politician will ever use again

Endorsement (n.): a statement of support for candidate, which may not preclude finding the candidate to be immoral, racist, unacceptable for the presidency, or unworthy of support

Extreme vetting (n.): vetting

Failing (ger.): reporting things harmful to my presidential campaign

Fallon (n.):
(a) Brian: a man whose job is to make Hillary Clinton look good, approachable, and human
(b) Jimmy: a man who believes his job is to make Donald Trump look good, approachable, and human

Fight Song (n.): an innovative method of torturing Hillary Clinton’s traveling press corps

Go high (v.): a campaign tactic developed by Democrats unable to devise a way to go lower than Donald Trump

Carlos Barria / Reuters / Paul Spella / The Atlantic

Goldman Sachs (n.): the one audience in America excited to hear a Hillary Clinton speech

Ken Bone (p.): the only Redditor undecided on whether to vote for Donald Trump

Kurds (n.): See Quds

Law and order (n.): a political philosophy of unflinching respect for police and the military, combined with complete disregard for generals and fire marshals

Lesser-evilism (n.): representative democracy

Locker-room talk (n): foul and obscene boasts never actually heard inside a locker room

Low energy (adj.): an accurate description of the Jeb Bush campaign

Lyin’ (adj.): crooked

Make America Great Again (n.): a slogan worn on baseball caps by people unsure whether they’re being ironic or not

Merrick Garland (n.): a synonym for purgatory

Move on like a bitch (v.): an ineffective way of picking up married women as romantic partners or voters

Nasty woman (n.): a debate rival with a well-rehearsed set of one-liners

Pepe (n.): Kermit the Frog, but Nazi-curious

Path (n.): a term invented by reporters too tired or lazy to count electoral votes. Typically, it is said to be narrowing. Once closed, it produces pathos.

Political correctness (n.): a leftist attempt to police speech, premised on the fringe belief that racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and sexism are bad

Political revolution, political movement (n.): a losing political campaign

Pneumonia (n.): a September surprise

Presidential look (n.): neologistic slang for a penis

Pussy (n.): a word that is now allowed to appear on the front page of The New York Times

Quds (n.): See Kurds

Racially charged (adj.): a news-anchor euphemism for “racist”

Radical Islamic terrorism (n.): a phrase with the magical power to defeat international jihadism, but only if ritually chanted by Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama while standing in front of a mirror in a dimly lit room

Rigged (adj.): producing a result which I do not like

Right to rise (n.): a privilege imputed to the American people by Jeb Bush, and denied to Jeb Bush by the American people

Sad! (adj.): a Twitter joke that ceased to be funny in approximately August 2015

Second Amendment people (n.): a team of people whom Donald Trump says could prevent Hillary Clinton appointees from reaching the Supreme Court; also known as the Senate Republican caucus

Sheriffs (n.): a secular and non-ethnically unified group of individuals, sometimes symbolized by a six-pointed star, who for no discernible reason are extremely unpopular among anti-Semites

Smart (adj.): politically stupid

Stamina (n.): a quality always noticeably absent in one’s opponents

Stronger Together (n.): the 85th least worst slogan considered by the Hillary Clinton campaign

Surprise, element of (n.): a clever excuse for not providing any policy specifics

Surrogate (n.): an individual willing to make a fool of one’s self and one’s candidate in exchange for cable-news airtime and social-media harassment

Taco bowl (n.): a method of Hispanic-voter outreach that seems enjoyable at the time but gives you a bad case of indigestion later

Rick Wilking / Reuters / Paul Spella / The Atlantic

Temperament (n.): a topic that presidential candidates find far easier and more fun to debate than any serious policy issues

Trumped-up trickle-down economics (n.): an overcooked zinger about marginal tax rates, falling well down the Laugher Curve

Twenty-seven dollars (n.): the cost of a second-tier seat at the Democratic National Convention

2 Corinthians (n.): a New Testament to Donald Trump’s Biblical literacy

Wall, The (n.): a bloated, expensive, overhyped, self-indulgent, and inevitably disappointing project undertaken by either Pink Floyd or Donald Trump

War hero (n.): someone who is not captured, tortured by Vietnamese agents, and awarded multiple military honors

Weiner (n.): an obsolete, silly-looking appendage to Clintonworld that keeps popping up at inopportune moments

Whatever (n.): a meaningless placeholder; ambiguous action

Wherever (n.): vagina

WikiLeaks (n.): an anti-globalist organization producing Russian propaganda, operated from the Ecuadorian Embassy in Britain by an Australian on the lam from Swedish authorities

Winning (ger.): the only thing Americans could be more tired of than the 2016 election

Wrong! (intj.): a nervous tic of Donald J. Trump, typically uttered in response to a factual statement

Yuuuuge (adj.): regional variant of “huge,” common to New York’s outer boroughs and used by both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Usages include describing Sanders rallies, Trump rallies, the Republican primary field, the size of tax increase proposed by Sanders, and Trump’s 1995 tax write-off.