Taxing Your Credulity

U.S. election 1916; green=Republican; white=Democrat

A week ago I invited readers to decorate with an effective slogan the bandwagon of a potential 2016 candidate for the U.S. presidency. For any potential candidate, because it’s too soon to know who the candidates will be, and because, like The Chronicle, I wish to remain scrupulously nonpartisan and equal opportunity.

These were my rules:

  1. No more than 10 words. Fewer is better. It’s a slogan, not a manifesto.
  2. Not used in previous presidential campaigns. Make it new!
  3. Available for any candidate, Democrat, Republican, or independent. Equal opportunity!

Thirty-two of you managed to rise to the occasion, even after the exhaustion of the 2012 campaign. One contributor was even so prolific as to offer more than two dozen slogans, like those who buy half the tickets in a lottery in hopes that one will win.

That’s not necessarily a good strategy, though. I’m reminded of a time when I was in graduate school. For a few months I hosted an old friend who had decided to make a living by writing humorous captions for greeting cards. He banged away at the typewriter day after day, ending up with a book of about 200 pages, each with about 10 ideas for captions.

When he finished, he sent the book off to a big card company, hoping they’d buy the whole thing. The editor who wrote back said my friend was clearly quite “erudite” (translated as, give up card writing) and bought a grand total of three ideas, for which he was paid $25. My friend decided he’d have to think of another way to get by on his literary talent. (And he did, but that’s another story.) We suspected they hadn’t read the book at all, just chose an arbitrary few ideas to be done with it.

That’s how I reacted to the proposals from “citrita.” Nevertheless, to be fair, I slogged through all 29 of them, and some were pretty good. “Text [candidate’s name] to win” was original, maybe even better if it were “Text [candidate’s name] to win a big prize, no purchase necessary.” And in the right font, or all caps, “I’M FOR US FIRST or maybe just “US FIRST” could be effective.

But my prize goes to “jbarman” for “Taxing your credulity, every day!” It’s a slogan that would be applied to an opponent, with menacing effectiveness. It begins with that shudder-inducing word “taxing,” and continues with an ugly-sounding word that half the electorate probably doesn’t know. Those who do know “credulity” can respect their candidate as a fellow erudite. They can feel smugly superior and highly cultivated by being able to recognize the twist “credulity” gives to “taxing.” Those who don’t know “credulity” can imagine it’s related to “crud” or “crude” or something equally disgusting. For making the most of connotations as well as denotations, this one has my vote.

So “jbarman,” send me ( your postal address and I’ll send you a copy of my Presidential Voices: Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. Bush.

I notice that “Taxing your credulity” almost won the popular vote, too, with 4 likes. “Typical new and Tyler too” beat it out, with 5 likes, but while that’s enjoyable as a joke, it wouldn’t work in a real campaign.

“Taxing your credulity, every day,” on the other hand, has uses that extend even beyond the political. Maybe we should adopt it as the motto of Lingua Franca.

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