Diplomatic trip lingo

In the NYT Week in Review section on 16 August, Jeffrey Gettleman reported on the U.S. Secretary of State’s African trip (“Hillary Clinton and the Diplomacy of Folksy”). There are points of linguistic interest.

Among the events on the seven-country tour were town hall meetings, called “townterviews”. Townterview is a portmanteau of town hall and interview — portmanteaus are very much in fashion — and, from what I can find on the web, seems to be associated only with Hillary Clinton, in the past few years.

Gettleman goes on:

These trips have their own lingo, I learned, as part of the traveling press corps assigned to chronicle every speech, handshake and hug. [doesn’t sound like much fun] “Bi-lats” are bilateral meetings. “Meet-n-greets” are visits to American embassies. “Camera sprays” are essentially photo opportunities, usually staged and no questions allowed, and “spray” can be used as a noun, as in, “there’s a camera spray at 2 p.m. with President X” or as a verb — “come on guys, time to spray the lunch.” [ick] The secret service on her plane refer [note plural agreement] to their M-4 assault rifles as their “sticks.” The secretary of state is called “the package.”

Some of these expressions were familiar to me. Meet-n-greet is used for all sorts of social events (not just visits to American embassies). And bi-lat as a clipping of bilateral is pretty frequent, especially in medical contexts, referring to bilateral mastectomy, bilateral cochlear implants, bilateral hip replacement, bilateral pneumonia, and so on.

Brevity and playfulness.

3 Responses to “Diplomatic trip lingo”

  1. Danny Bloom Says:

    Very interesting. I had never heard of “camera sprays” before, good catch! And “sticks” for the Secret Service guys’ guns? Ouch! And Clinton as “the package”? Amazing. This should be a New York Times article, too, not the article above, but YOUR take on that article. enLIGHTening!

    Arnold, question for you: what is a portmanteau called that, I presume from the French? Port Manteau? I know I could google it and look it up, but I’d prefer to hear it from you.

    Also: speaking of coining new words and neologisms, could I ask you a question one day in the future offline or here about a new word for reading on screens, that SOME people are already using? I won’t say the word here, but if you agree, I can send it by email or post here later in a followup. By the way, did you know some newspapers are now using the word follow as a shortened form of follow-up? Really. I spotted this in an AP report last week. I wrote the reporter to ask her how in the world follow-up had beomce just “follow” — as a noun! — but she has not repliede yet. But a friend on Cape Cod told me he has heard this used before this way. The reporter wrote “and as follow CD to her last album, X will soon release TITLE…..”

    A follow is now a short form for follow-up? Egads! Where’s my stick?

  2. Inventory of portmanteau postings « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] 8/18/09: Diplomatic trip lingo (link) […]

  3. johnwcowan Says:

    I remember Safire using diplolingo a lot, and Google confirms it.

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