Politics, Pundits And The Problem With The Word 'Pivot' The campaign buzzword du jour seems to be "pivot," and NPR's Scott Simon is sick of it. He points out that it's more than tiresome — it can obscure the true meaning of a politician's message.
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Politics, Pundits And The Problem With The Word 'Pivot'

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Politics, Pundits And The Problem With The Word 'Pivot'

Politics, Pundits And The Problem With The Word 'Pivot'

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

I'm getting just a little tired of all this pivoting. Pundits and analysts - which by the way might be a good name for a new bar in Georgetown - say that Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Bernie Sanders are, must or are soon expected to pivot into some new strategy for the fall campaign. Try to go through a news cycle without reading or hearing pivot. Bloomberg Politics headline says, "Corker Says Trump Judge Comment Wrong, Urges Him To Pivot" - political banners, "Emails Block Clinton's Pivot To Positive." And Fox News proclaims, "Trump Advisors Try To Pivot, Not Fishtail." I won't even get into fishtail. I understand that one even less.

Pivot has become part of the special vocabulary of this campaign, along with wall, bridges, rigged and huge - emphasis not mine. To pivot seems to mean that a politician will say or do something that's different from what they did and said before. Some people would call that hypocrisy. Others would even call it growth. But to a politician, it's pivoting.

I try not to be persnickety about language, but politicians and the reporters who must speak their language have taken a word that, according to Merriam-Webster, is an object on which something turns, a person or thing that is essential to a function or a play in basketball and turned it into a phrase they say over and over to mean something else. There is no need to run a search. I'm sure I've said pivot plenty of times in our political coverage. Although, if you do search my name and pivot, you'll find a Scott Simon who's patented a console armrest with a dampening strut and a hinge pivotally attaching. That's not me.

I think the problem I have with using pivot to describe how a politician may change is that these seasonal buzzwords, like a lot of advertising slogans, are popular but not clear. In fact, these words are often used to sound authoritative while being obscure. We're pivoting our thinking on that is a lot easier for a politician to announce than I've changed my position or that was then, this is now or, especially, I was wrong.

Saying pivot instead of change may not be wrong but the hundredth time you've heard it bounce off the echo chamber of pundits and analysts, it begins to smack of smug insider-ness (ph). Imagine if Muhammad Ali, the masterful communicator who was laid to rest yesterday, had made his motto pivot like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Jimmy Raney (ph) Kevin Burrell (ph) sextet and pivot. You're listening to NPR News.

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