Published: 06th April 2019
The language of elections: What do the terms campaign trail, dark horse, swing seat mean?
'To go to the poll' means to vote in an election. It is incorrect to use the phrase "to go to the polls" without the definite article "the"
“I don't approve of political jokes. I've seen too many of them get elected.” I don’t know who authored this thought-provoking one-liner. I enjoy watching political jokers making empty promises and tall claims and thus amusing (fooling) the electorate. I come across numerous witty remarksand jokes about politicians during this election season and enjoy sharing them with friends as we all need relief from stress. Here is one of the witty remarks: Politicians and diapers have one thing in common: they should both be changed regularly… and for the same reason.
The 2019 Lob Sabha elections are just around the corner. Election campaigns are in full swing. Everyone is excited about going to the polls. The media is awash with news and stories about political parties, manifestoes, candidates, constituencies, election frauds, election forecast, etc. Social networking sites are abuzz with memes and jokes about different politicians and parties. Readers, listeners and watchers of mainstream and social media are bombarded with election lingo which is defined as words and phrases associated with voting and elections. As social media has given an opportunity to everyone to express their views freely many use election jargon in a creative way and some use in an unacceptable manner. Some of the words/phrases are foreign-sounding for learners of English. A couple of readers of this column requested me to discuss election lingo in the column. Many thanks for your suggestion, dear readers.
Here are some useful election words and phrases, their meanings and how they are used in sentences:
- to go to the polls
- to cast a ballot / to blackball
- anti-incumbency / anti-incumbent mood / anti-incumbent vote / anti-incumbency wave
- campaign trail
- swing seat / safe seat
- dark horse
‘To go to the polls’means to vote in an election. It is incorrect to use the phrase “to go to the polls” without the definite article “the”. In many Indian newspapers, we come across the phrase “to go to polls” but native speakers of English use “to go to the polls”. There is no match for the query “go to polls” in the British National Corpus but for the query “go to the polls” there are 17 matches.
Here are examples of how the phrase is used in sentences:
- Tamil Nadu is all set to go to the polls on April 18, 2019, for the 39 Lok Sabha constituencies.
- Soon Indian will go to the polls to elect new MPs.
‘To cast a ballot’ is the same as ‘to cast a vote’. The second phrase ‘to cast a vote’ is more commonly used in British English. The past tense of ‘cast’ is also ‘cast’. What is the origin of the word ‘ballot’? It is an Italian word and it refers to a small ball used to record decisions made by voters. It also refers to a piece of paper used in secret voting. After the introduction of voting machines, the term ‘ballot’ is not used much in India.
- The voter casts their ballot in a box at a polling station.
- In 2014, he cast his ballot for someone who sold many dreams. In 2019, he will cast his vote for someone who sells visions.
What is the meaning of the term “blackball”? It means to reject a candidate who aspires to become a member of a club or a group by voting against the person.
- She thought she would win the election and become an MP but she was blackballed.
‘Incumbency’ means the holding of an office at a particular period. If voters are not happy with those who are currently in power, they decide to vote against the incumbent elected representatives. This is called ‘anti-incumbency mood’ or ‘anti-incumbency vote’.
- There is a clear anti-incumbency mood among voters.
- Opposition parties are banking on the strong anti-incumbency wave in the country.
‘Campaign trail’ refers to a series of planned events in different places taken part by a politician who wants to be elected.
- Prime Minister Modi goes on campaign trail covering 22 States to get the nation's political pulse.
- Political leaders on campaign trail across India.
What is the meaning of ‘swing seat’? It refers to a constituency where the incumbent elected representative has only a small majority. The other term used to mean ‘swing seat’ is ‘marginal seat’. It is the opposite of ‘safe seat’.
- Which is the safe seat for Rahul Gandhi: Amethi or Wayanad?
- It is guesstimated that over a hundred swing seats will seal BJP’s fate in the 2019 election.
A ‘dark horse’ is a candidate who is not well known but unexpectedly wins an election. The term is also used to refer to someone surprises others with their skills or talents and wins a competition.
- Jayalalithaa lost to a dark horse in the 1996 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections.
- Who is going to be the dark horses of 2019 Lok Sabha elections?
“If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.”—Mark Twain