Pumas 4 Palin

NObama – The New American Rhetoric

Posted on: August 9, 2008

(Based on a diary cross posted at: Alegre’s Corner)

Senator Barack Obama’s great contribution to a new American Rhetoric may well be a Negative.

It is simply the word NObama.

American political history heretofore has nothing similar to Nobama. Whatever political developments may occur later on during this election year and in subsequent years, this word is not going to go away. Passage of time will not erase the reality of this word coming into being, nor will this word’s significance or power fade.

What does the word denote?  Simply put, it is an abject negation of his candidacy, by un-adoring critics.

As happens often with popular opinion, the sentiments behind the word probably came into being almost at the same time as the senator put himself in national limelight. But the word Nobama itself came into a final state of  durability,  viability, and the form of commercially sustainable slogan, late in the primary season of 2008.

The growing popularity of NObama, both sentiment and slogan, late during the primary election season coincided with increasing pressure on Hillary Clinton to quit. The media pundits, the DNC, the party elites, and all other powers that be, simply told her to stand down, and make way for Obama to claim the prize. That pressure was the direct reason the word Nobama hit the blogs in full force.

It is slightly more difficult to pinpoint when the word gained widespread usage. One thing is known for sure, the  word Nobama actually put down roots even before the first votes were cast. It began as a citizen response to a well-staged campaign adorned with words such as change and hope.

Mother of NoBama

Mother of NObama

The word seems to have appeared about one year ago. In a Huffington Post article (June 2007) Glynnis MacNicol uses Generation Nobama to capture the summary of her experiences.

Glynnis MacNicol  relates her responses to an impulse to attend some fund raisers.  In one reflexive, moody piece, Nobama reflected her eventual rejection, due to disappointing experience at an event called Generation Obama.  Macnicol’s articles about her experiences of those early Obama events were considered well worthy enough, that they drew some giggly, catty commentary from Wonkette.

In a way then, the reason this word came into existence was because the old  caveat emptor worked. Rejection of person often is emobodied in the rejection of the name. Where the name itself is the story, and the legend, rejection of the myth is denoted by a derision of the name.

Now, coining a nickname or pet name is the society’s way of connecting with celebrities. Writers and cartoonists do this for a living. Everyone knows that mob figures and football players are just characters in search of a nickname. Politicians are not that far behind, being staple for late night comics and bar room banter.

Of course, all of our presidents have had nicknames, some had five or six. Some have had their own name used in a nickname as a phrase, such as Grover the Good, Honest Abe, Useless Grant, Haberdasher Harry and so on.

Some presidents built a life time of a reputation by advocating a certain value system, ideology, or rhetorical style so that their names became identified with a way of life or thought. Examples include Jeffersonian Democracy, Monroe Doctrine, Reaganomics, or Kennedyisms (symmetry in syntax, and structured eloquence).

Since the seventh president Andrew was tagged by a cartoonist Jack-Ass, very few have suffered that sort of ignominy of having their own actual name mutilated or mongrified. Nor, so graphically rendered to such devastating effect. A few that pop into mind right away include: Ruther-fraud (Rutherford Hayes), Tricky Dicky (Richard Nixon), Ronnie Ray-Gun, and Slick Willie. Incidentally, across the ocean, the liberals assailed their prime minister as Snatcher Thacher when she cut social programs. She hit back as Middle Class Maggie.


As to having one’s own name negatively codified, Nobama has no equal. It just has not been done. Short and straightforward, involving no parsing, nor requiring any deep reflection, the word Nobama is simplicity itself. It invokes no grand imagery, needs no leap of meaning.

The word NObama is a simple stand, bluntly stated.

It is almost tempting, particularly given the political discourse this season, to describe the word Nobama as being as plain as a working class person. A sentiment stated with an equal matter of fact style.

A casual Google search showed nearly a million hits for the word Nobama, there were some 15,000 images and 350 videos tagged thus.

This is hardly surprising, considering that we now have Nobama Network, with it’s own hub site, linking to nearly 500 separate websites. Almost all these sites wear the New Badge of Outrage (discussed previously).  Nobama Network itself yields about 75,000 hits on a basic Google search.

New Badge of Outrage

It is obvious that a sizable chunk of the voting population is now firmly committed to Nobama, the idea.

We would be remiss in this discussion of nicknames if we do not reflect on the current president, GWB. He owns a richly textured set of nicknames, eponyms and such. Bush43, Baby Bush, Shrub, Uncurious George, Decider, Bushisms, Bushie are all sobriquets used in connection to our 43rd president.

But, there is more. President George Bush has the distinction of being distinguished by one single, solitary letter that denotes his middle name. He used it effectively with slogans such as W Stands for Women .

But just think, that one simple uncurved straightforward letter made of four short strokes of ink, even that letter is propagated only in the worst possible mangled pronunciation of it. That letter, by itself would have been undistinguished in our national banter, were it not celebrated via that unique spelling, dubya. Double You has nothing on Dubya.  Indeed W, the word, is a great contribution to our rhetoric precisely because it stands as a metaphor. A family legacy  is to be represented by a man who is distinguished  from others by one name; next, turn that name into an everyday word, and then belittle that word with a letter, and finally pronounce it, well colloquially. Now, reconstitute the syllables into a meaningless word, dubya.  A process of bowdlerization – it stands as a metaphor for the sum and substance of a presidency itself!

Will the voters, as an organic mass, respond to the current election fever with a collective, cohesive, language of dissidence?  Are the reactions that long time ago, of a young would-be party attendee, primordial in and of themselves, enough to denote a wider sentiment?

Will Nobama become an equally representative rhetorical symbol come this Fall?  No matter what the results of the election, negation has a new synonym in American political rhetoric. The latest synonym for negation also happens to be an eponym.

See Also the post:   The New badge of outrage


1 Response to "NObama – The New American Rhetoric"

Fantastic post, Sharma. I will definitely be thinking about this today. Thanks!

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