Expressive Words to Use Against the Trump Clique


Criticizing the President is great, but it’s important to remember that the office insulates its holder from the impact of some amount of criticism. That’s why it’s important to go after the accomplices too. People like Sean Spicer and Steve Bannon ought to be unemployable after their affiliation with this administration. To help, here’s a list of pejorative terms for people helping the administration, most of which are underused:

  • Collaborator
  • Quisling
  • Vichyist
  • Recreant
  • Prevaricator
  • Fink
  • Tergiversant
Some of these are not perfect synonyms and refer to cowardice or evasion, rather than pure collaboration, and there are subtleties in each, so be sure you’re using the right word.



A “spandrel” is an “evolutionary by-product.” It is an unrelated trait that travels with another trait, sometimes for totally unknown reasons. One possible example of this is the color of cats: certain fur patterns or colors are linked to higher levels of aggressiveness, but it is unclear why that would be true.

The word originally meant the space between two arches. It was adapted to cover the biological phenomenon by Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, in a 1979 essay. The essay (which I haven’t had a chance to read) is here.



A “skeuomorph” is a type of vestigial design element, that refers to an older, no longer necessary, feature of an object. Look at your phone, there are probably a few right there. The Apple logo for the phone on an iPhone is one (the headset looks like an old phone), and the notes app resembles a legal pad. This is one of those things, like bad kerning, that you have trouble un-seeing.

Vague & Ambiguous


Vague and ambiguous are buddies. They are often used together, and people use them interchangeably. But while something can be both vague and ambiguous, the two are not synonyms:

  • Vague means unclear, or imprecise.
  • Ambiguous means capable of having at least 2 meanings.

Examples later.

Three Sheets to the Wind


A phrase which means “very drunk.” Its origins are nautical but contested. In one version, the “sheets” refer to chains or ropes which attach the sails to the boat. For them to be “to the wind” means the ship is falling over itself in the manner of a drunk. This means that there was a scale of how many sheets to the wind one could be. But another explanation is that the sheets means sails, and the key is not that there are three because three is a lot of sheets, but that three is an odd number. Even numbers of sails would be balanced, but odd numbers would not be. I don’t know either is right. The second link references another NY Times article that is a quick and fun read.