Best known as the 26th President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt was also a soldier, explorer, outdoorsman, author, reformer and trailblazer. Immortalized in stone on Mt. Rushmore, President Roosevelt’s influence stretches far beyond today’s history text books. It can be heard in many common words and expressions the former president popularized and we still use today.
Square Deal (a fair bargain or treatment) The Square Deal was President Theodore Roosevelt’s domestic program formed upon three basic ideas: conservation of natural resources, control of corporations, and consumer protection. These three demands are often referred to as the “three C’s” of Roosevelt’s Square Deal.
Hat in the Ring (The official beginning of a political campaign.) When amateurs wanted to challenge the winner of a boxing match for a chance to win a lucrative prize, they would throw their hat in the ring. A great sportsman, Teddy Roosevelt is credited with adapting this phrase from the outrageously popular sport of boxing to the political arena.
“My hat is in the ring, the fight’s on.”—TR, 1912. (Roosevelt said this when asked if he’d be running for president again that year.)
Mollycoddle (to treat someone indulgently or protectively; to pamper or baby)
“The Mollycoddle vote [consists of] the people who are soft physically and morally, or have a twist in them which makes them acidly cantankerous and unpleasant.” –TR, 1913. He also used this word to describe the game of baseball, a sport for which he had no favor.
Pussyfoot (to avoid making a definite decision or commitment often out of fear or doubt)
“I think they are inclined to pussy-foot, and it is worse than useless for them to nominate me, unless they are prepared for an entirely straightforward and open campaign.”—TR, 1916. (This was Roosevelt’s response when asked about his odds of again becoming the Republican presidential nominee.)
Muckrakers (The name given to US journalists and other writers who exposed corruption in politics and business in the early 20th century.) The term was first used by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The phrase was modified from a character in John Bunyan’s novel Pilgrim’s Progress. “The men with the muck rakes are often indispensable to the well being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck”—TR, 1906.
Strong as A Bull Moose (to demonstrate formidable strength) Teddy Roosevelt coined this phrase after he received the Republican Party’s Vice Presidential nomination. After failing to win the presidential nomination in 1912, he formed the Bull Moose Party founded on progressive principles
- “I am as strong as a Bull Moose and you can use me to the limit.” –TR, 1900.
Bully Pulpit (A public office or position of authority that provides an outstanding opportunity to speak out on any issue.) “Bully”, one of Roosevelt’s favorite expressions, means “grand” or “excellent.”
“I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit!”—TR, 1909.
Weasel Words (soft and ambiguous language; words used in order to avoid being clear or direct.)
“One of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use what have been called ‘weasel words.’ When a weasel sucks eggs, the meat is sucked out of the egg. If you use a ‘weasel word’ after another, there is nothing left of the other.” –TR, 1916.
Nailing Jelly to the Wall (something difficult-to-impossible to understand or describe). I don’t hear this too much anymore but this phras was osed to be one of my grandmother’s favorite expressions.
“Somebody asked me why I did not get an agreement with Columbia. They may just as well ask me why I do not nail cranberry jelly to the wall.” –TR, 1912.
TR’s exuberant, no-nonsense personality impacted everything he touched from politics to nature conservancy leaving behind not only a legacy as one of America’s most popular presidents, but many additions to the American lexicon as well.
Is there a phrase above you use or hear frequently? One you’ve never heard?