Patricia T. O'Conner on Watergate Words

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Our word maven Patricia T. O'Conner talks about the words and phrases that emerged from the Watergate scandal 40 years ago—“inoperative,” “stonewall,” “Deep Throat,” “follow the money,” “a cancer on the presidency,” and all the -gates that have been created since the original. She’ll also answer questions about language and grammar. An updated and expanded third edition of her book, Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, is available in paperback, as is  Origins of the Specious, written with Stewart Kellerman.

If you have a question about language and grammar, leave a comment or call us at 212-433-9692!


Patricia T. O'Conner

Comments [9]


i guess someone never taught the first caller, how to not be tautological and redundant.

Jan. 19 2013 04:53 PM

per wikipedia
"The origin of the name “Watergate salad” is obscure. Kraft Corporate Affairs said, "We developed the recipe for Pistachio Pineapple Delight. It was in 1975, the same year that pistachio pudding mix came out."Kraft, however, didn't refer to it as Watergate Salad until consumers started requesting the recipe for it under the name. "According to Kraft Kitchens, when the recipe for Pistachio Pineapple Delight was sent out, an unnamed Chicago food editor renamed it Watergate Salad to promote interest in the recipe when she printed it in her column."Neither the article nor editor has been tracked down, however. The Denver Post, in the Empire Magazine of June 27, 1976 published a recipe for Watergate Salad. Watergate salad was a concoction thought up by a sous chef at the Watergate Hotel. It was then served at brunch on most weekends. Watergate Salad took off in popularity during and after the presidential scandal which shares the same name.

Jan. 16 2013 02:49 PM
Robert McCormick

Re: The "-gate" suffix

The first post-Nixon application I recall was "Billygate," for some relatively minor Carter transgression. Probably Republicans trying to even the score.

Jan. 16 2013 02:10 PM

"Follow the money." First references in 1780's.

"Smoking gun" First references in 1860's

Jan. 16 2013 02:00 PM


Jan. 16 2013 01:59 PM

My grandmother used to make "watergate salad" whose main ingredients are pisctachio pudding mix, cool whip, walnuts and marshmallows. Any idea what the connection was?

Jan. 16 2013 01:56 PM
Kate Garrett from Brooklyn

Most lasting (and cringe-inducing) phrase to come out of Watergate: "At this point in time..."

Jan. 16 2013 01:42 PM

A question about usage of the word fun. You often hear people say " oh that was so fun." Isn't fun a noun which shouldn't be modified by an adverb such as so? Wouldn't it be proper to say instead " much fun"?

Jan. 16 2013 01:41 PM
ericka hamburg

twisting, twisting in the wind

Jan. 16 2013 01:30 PM

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