These days a word or phrase which is said by a celebrity or politician can instantly go all around the world, and suddenly be more common in its use.
One example of this is the word ‘zinger‘, which has very recently been tweeted and re-tweeted, put up on Facebook, Pinned, and used in nightly news broadcasts. It’s not a word I’ve heard much in conversation, as it’s used more in the U.S.A, but recently the New York Times used it to talk about the upcoming televised debates between President Obama and Governor Romney:
Mr. Romney’s team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August.
Can you guess what this word means?
1. something causing or meant to cause interest, surprise, or shock
2. a pointed witty remark or retort
Governor Romney’s team are hoping he can say something which is really witty or a great line which can be quoted on TV and all over the internet.
If he can say one great zinger, he’s hoping it will help his chances in the November presidential election.
Examples in the media
I found these headlines on google of how zinger has been used since that New York Times article:
- Mitt Romney doesn’t need new zingers. He needs new policies
- Can Romney Win The Debate With A Zinger? No, But He Could …
- Romney’s zingers are well-rehearsed. What could possibly go wrong?
- Mitt Romney studying up on debate ‘zingers’
And on Twitter, the word has been mentioned either in serious debate or from people mocking the presidential hopeful:
- A zinger for Romney to say to Obama on Wed: In 2008 you ran on “Yes We Can”, in 2012 you’re running on “Well, nobody could have” @HuntsmanLiddy
- Let’s donate $20 to a charity to teach kids comedy for each awkward, poorly timed, and overly rehearsed zinger Romney stumbles over tonight. @AdamSimonSays
- What’s the agreed upon term for failed zinger? Zaffe? @evanmc_s
Is it important to know this word?
It helps to pick up some words, idioms and phrases which are trending in the media. The reason for this is that quite often the language being used is quite particular to that country, and if you, too, can use a trending word like ‘zinger’, others may feel you’re ‘speaking their language.’
For example, when Barrack Obama chose Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008, former President Bill Clinton said:
“He hit the ball out of the park.”
This sound bite was in that day’s news, and actually it was the first time I’d heard it because it’s an idiom from baseball, which is not played much in Britain or Australia.
Simply, Mr Clinton was saying that Barrack Obama had made a home run (= he’d made an excellent choice).
If he was English or Australian, Bill Clinton might have said: “He hit a six with that one” (which would come from cricket).
But imagine if either of these idioms were used in Scotland – they wouldn’t have the same effect, as baseball and cricket are not popular there.
Knowing a few words and phrases which are trending in the media helps show others that you can identify and relate to others, especially those from that country or region.
It helps to know some cultural references, as they play a big part in language.
Trending words even be city-centric. In Melbourne the media sometimes use words and idioms from Australian football. However, in Sydney they may be ‘translated’ into something rugby followers can understand.
After tonight’s debate between President Obama and Governor Romney, which sentence do you think will sound better tomorrow morning when you’re chatting to friends at work or university:
1. “Romney didn’t make as many memorable or witty comments as I’d expected.”
2. “How about Romney in the debate – hardly a zinger all night from him!”
speak their language – this means that you have similar attitudes, opinions or ideas about something
sound bite – a very short part of a speech or statement, especially one made by a politician, that is broadcast on a radio or television news programme (Longman)
Before Debate, Tough Crowds at the Practice – NY Times