30-second Word Whoop: “Mulligan”

Caricatures: GOP Presidential Debate Participa...

Politics is not so much a war of ideas as a war of words. Monday night’s battlefield: the Republican presidential debate in Tampa.

I tuned in, and there’s that word again: “mulligan.” I heard it volleyed by Mitt Romney at last Wednesday’s debate in Simi Valley, Calif. (though I think Rick Perry started it …). Romney was being defensive, saying every candidate deserved to take “a mulligan” or two on bad decisions from the past.

This time, Michele Bachmann lobbed it repeatedly at Rick Perry as one of her talking points — saying that in the case of government-mandated inoculations against a virus that causes cervical cancer, “little girls don’t get a mulligan … they don’t get a do-over.”

I’ll leave it to the pundits to keep score; I just want to know what, exactly, it means.

I’ve heard of mulligan stew — a hodgepodge. It’s Irish, right? Maybe goes well with a swig of something?

The “Mulligan Man” pops to mind, like the Roto-Rooter guy. Oh, wait. It was “Hey, Culligan Man!” Thanks, YouTube:

Turns out, a “mulligan” relates to scorekeeping in golf. Its etymology is debatable. Could be Scottish; I lose track of who kicked whom out of whose country. First popularized in the 1940s, mulligan refers to a second shot allowed by an opponent after a player hacks his swing.

I thought candidates aimed to be folksy and speak to the American people, not use lexicon straight from the country club.

A pile of golf balls, not goofballs. 🙂

Maybe the term will come in handy as the 2012 presidential field tries to navigate the obstacle course in the remaining SWING states. (Maybe the mulligan stew even will start thinning out.)

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About Terry Byrne

Writer-editor with deep reservations about holding her tongue. Fan of both nature and nurture. Lifelong fascination with gender studies, sexuality, music and brainpower.

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  1. 30-Second Word Whoop: “Whelm” | Word Whoops - September 23, 2011

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