by Rosemarie Ostler

Berkley NAL, $13.95, 228 pages

Rosemarie Ostler’s Slinging Mud: Rude Nicknames, Scurrilous Slogans, and Insulting Slang from Two Centuries of American Politics  is oddly comforting.  As a citizen, I’ve been paying close attention to the most recent political catastrophes (pick one), I’ve been shocked at the depths of partisan rhetoric, and bad faith emitted from Washington, DC. Slinging Mud reminds us that Washington has always been like this, that there’s nothing materially different now, than there was during the time of Andrew Jackson, or William McKinnley. Ostler even reminds us that not even our founding fathers were immune from truly wretched partisanship. Supporters of John Adams said that a Thomas Jefferson presidency would bring rape, murder, adultery, and incest to our nation, and that the streets would run red with blood.  Luckily it didn’t.

Slinging Mud is a very approachable text.  In a book like this one, it’s not at all necessary to open the book to page one and then read it to the back.  One could open the book to any page, and be entertained. Personally, I was surprised to see how many idioms and sayings have come out of our politicians and campaigners. I can’t wait to run into somebody who’s more interested in socializing than doing work; I’m going to call them a Cookie Pusher.

This isn’t your father’s social studies, or political science text.  It’s an entertaining look at how American rhetoric and electioneering has shaped our perceptions of national politics. I heartily recommend this book for anybody interested in how our government actually works, or those that think politics are entertaining.

Reviewed by Bradley Wright