• swiftboat •
swift-bot • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: (Pejorative) 1. To maliciously blindside and undermine someone with unfounded attacks on their character or background. 2. To maliciously trick , to divert by deception.
Notes: Today's word is so new it appears in only five or six dictionaries, 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. That this word is now being modified and used outside the political arena suggests that it has settled into the language. It is still sometimes spelled swift-boat.
In Play: Today's Good Word usually comes to the fore during presidential campaigns: "The feminist Gloria Steinem has accused Donald Trump of swiftboating his rival Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race" (Wikipedia). 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." Look out for its reemergence in the 2020 presidential campaign.
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 anti-Kerry political ads featuring servicemen who were present in other swift boats during the war. They denied that Kerry had acted bravely and claimed that he had, in fact, lied about his actions and that this made him unfit for the presidency.
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