Canadian Political Babble:
A Cynic's Dictionary of Political Jargon

by David Olive,
ISBN: 0471640786

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Brief Reviews - Non-fiction
by Allan Levine

IT IS NOT surprising that in David Olive's Canadian Political Babble: A Cynic's Dictionary of Political jargon (John Wiley, 234 pages, $18.95 cloth), two of the longest entries are under arrogance ("The least avoidable outcome of electoral success") and invective ("Pleasantries exchanged among political combatants, worthy of corporal punishment if overheard in a schoolyard but deemed an essential element of parliamentary discourse").

In this amusing and witty reference work, Olive, editor of the Globe and Mail's Report on Business magazine, has amassed a vast collection of political comments and doublespeak and catalogued them under his own definitions, from accessibility to zealotry. Several are highly original, such as "careereliminating comment: n. A nonretractable, inexplicable reputation-endangering verbal miscue." As an example, Olive includes Brian Mulroney's now infamous comment on the Meech Lake negotiations, "And I said that's the day that I'm going to roll all the dice."

Canadian Prime ministers from John A. Macdonald to Kim Campbell are targeted in particular, some with more gentleness than others. While Pierre Trudeau's wit and sarcasm shine through, Brian Mulroney's life and career are slotted under such entries as ambition, arrogance, boast, deficit, and insolence.

Olive's dictionary is a lot of fun. It should provide the press gallery and political junkies everywhere with hours of entertainment.


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