• swiftboat •
swift-bot • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: (Pejorative) 1. To powerfully blindside and undermine someone with questionable attacks on their character or background. 2. To trick or cheat, to divert by deception.
Notes: Today's word is so new it doesn't appear in any dictionary, yet it is used so much that it has a fully developed family: swiftboating is the noun and adjective and a swiftboater is someone who engages in swiftboating. In fact, swiftboater has already been shortened to swifty. That this word is now being modified and used outside the political arena suggests that it has settled into the language.
In Play: Today's Good Word has already arisen in the 2008 campaign with an attack on Senator Barack Obama's character by the same organization that orchestrated the 2004 swift boat attack: "Republicans are hoping they can swiftboat Senator Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign". The word is creeping out into the general vocabulary with a broader meaning, though: "Charlie swiftboated me out of my place in line by telling me the principal wanted to see me."
Word History: Today's word comes from a series of aggressive attacks on the military record of Senator John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign. Senator Kerry won three purple hearts for injuries received in battle and a Bronze Star for bravery while commanding a fast patrol craft called a "swift boat" during the Vietnam War. An organization supported by wealthy anti-Kerry conservatives published a book and paid for a series of ads featuring servicemen who were present in other swift boats on the day Senator Kerry's actions earned him his bronze star. They denied that he had acted bravely and claimed that he had, in fact, lied about his actions and that this made him unfit for the presidency.