“Flip-Flop” Under The Microscope

Because we’re used to seeing and hearing “flip-flop” in political discourse, we are implicitly advised by Orwell to avoid writing it and should probably also boycott its currency in speech.

Like a gaggle of other politicians, Charlie Crist is attempting to stay one step ahead of the oil-spill and has pressed the Florida legislature to pass a law prohibiting off-shore drilling. Apparently Crist favored such drilling before, as his Democratic opponent quickly characterized Crist’s legislative gesture as a “flip-flop.”

Assuming this Demo is correct about Crist’s earlier position, didn’t Crist merely flip? Why the “flop”? Just because it sounds interesting? A “flip-flop,” in this context, suggests that a person changed his or her mind once–and then twice, meaning Crist would have gone back to the original position.

Also, “flop” seems to have more denotations than “flip.” One may flop on a couch or on the floor (verb). A Broadway show may be a “flop” (noun). Virtually penniless, one may stay at a “flop-house” (probably close to obsolete in usage). There is also the famous high-jumping technique, allegedly invented by Dick Fosbury, the “Fosbury flop,” by which the jumper turns or flips over so as to clear the bar (one hopes) belly-up, back arched.

Whether it’s “flip” or “flip-flop,” a broader problem might be that politicians may fear changing their minds based on new information, as opposed to changing their position based on mere calculation. It’s painful to see Senator McCain doing the latter with regard to immigration, and everyone knows he doing so because he has a J.D. Hellhound on his trail and a Palin in his recent past.

But let us eschew “flip-flop”; that is my current position on the matter, at least.


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