The dictionary site Merriam-Webster.com actually has advice for people who think they may have coined a word or phrase, or hope to. “If you feel that you have developed or know of a word that could serve to better the English language,” its editors write, “we can only suggest that you use the word as much as possible in your everyday discourse and see if it catches on….”
Okay then: “Kishkes Factor.” “Kishkes Factor.” “Kishkes Fact—”
Back in February 2008, I wrote a column suggesting that then-candidate Barack Obama was struggling to connect with Jews because they weren’t sure that he supported Israel’s cause in his gut — that is, in his kishkes. As far as I can tell, I was the first writer to apply the term “Kishkes Factor” in relation to politics and Israel.
It gained some currency. In November 2008, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk wrote an op-ed asking “whether Obama could pass the kishke test.” There were references to the “kishkes factor” in a March 2011 JTA story on Obama and a June 2011 report in The Jerusalem Post about a panel on the state of U.S.-Israel relations.
Obama himself even heard a reference to the term, at least once. In an interview with the candidate, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg began a question by referring to “the kishke question, the gut question: the idea that if Jews know that you love them, then you can say whatever you want about Israel, but if we don’t know you…then everything is suspect.”
Every so often a writer gives me props. Rob Eshman, editor of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, credited me in a “Dear Senator Obama” essay in March 2008. Last month, in an article about Obama and the Jews, Tablet’s Allison Hoffman linked the phrase to my original column.
Before this sounds as self-serving as it obviously is, I should acknowledge that there was provenance to the “Kishkes Factor.” As I noted at the time, a top official of AIPAC, referring to Newt Gingrich in 1998, remarked that the former speaker of the House “understood [Israel] in his kishkes.” And I recently learned that in a 1995 book, Jerome Chanes wrote of a “kishke factor,” referring not to politics but to how Jews experience anti-Semitism.
William Safire once wrote that the greatest thrill a writer can experience is “to coin a word or phrase that fills a linguistic void and becomes part of the history of the era.” His “Coinage Hall of Fame” included columnists Herbert Swope (cold war), Stewart Alsop (egghead), and Joseph Alsop (Southern strategy).
I doubt “Kishkes Factor” will ever make it into their company, let alone the dictionary, but a boy can dream. And just in case, I am busy coining new phrases. A sampling:
The Gribines Factor: Named for the fried chicken-skin delicacy, it refers to a candidate’s ability to withstand criticism about his Middle East positions and foreign policy experience.
The Gefilte Filter: In many races, the support of Jewish Democratic donors is key to viability. If a candidate successfully runs the gauntlet of pro-Israel PACs and Hollywood fund-raisers, she has passed through the Gefilte Filter.
Cel-Ray Vision: A politician’s ability to look a constituent in the eye and instantly determine whether he or she is a Jew.
Serving Pastrami: A speech to a Jewish audience featuring the phrases “I will move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” “The bonds between Israel and the United States are unshakable,” or “Iran will not be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons.” See “red meat.”
Stuffing the Derma: When a politician, in an attempt to ingratiate himself with the Jews, simply overdoes it. When Obama promised AIPAC an “undivided Jerusalem” in 2008, or Gingrich referred to Palestinians as “an invented people,” they were Stuffing the Derma. (Also known as “Varnishing the Kasha.”)
Rachmones Republican: Fiscally conservative, socially moderate Jewish member of the GOP. See: “compassionate conservative.”
Nu Democrat: Fiscally conservative, socially moderate Jewish member of the Democratic Party. See: “1992.”
The Borscht Beltway: Refers to the panoply of Washington-based Jewish and pro-Israel groups and their representatives, including AIPAC, JINSA, J Street, Religious Action Center, and the OU’s Institute for Public Affairs.
The Chootz-pah Test: How well does a politician — such as, say, Michele Bachmann — pronounce common Jewish or Yiddish phrases? E.g., if you pronounce kvetch with two or more syllables, or your mishpocha rhymes with “his broker,” you’ve failed the Chootz-pah Test.
Flanking: (Rhymes with “bonking.”) Not technically a political term, refers to a social media trend in which participants imitate a boiled flanken by lying stiffly in weird places and posting pictures of themselves on the Internet.
C’mon, Merriam-Webster! What else does a guy have to do to get a little credit?