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October 27, 2008

You're So Full of Flint

Are you a reporter searching for an adjective with which to describe the cranky, cold-faced independent voters of New Hampshire? Are you trying to describe John McCain with a word other than "maverick"? Or are you simply searching for the right term to capture the essence of that guy you saw in the bodega who, confusingly, had both a girlfriend and an "I Will Survive" ringtone? Then we've got a word for you: flinty.

Though infrequently—if ever—used in conversation, political writers and consultants seem to have a strange affinity for the word that evokes a splintering, craggy rock.

USA Today on Obama and McCain: "The most left-wing member of the Senate or the flinty Republican maverick who has earned the wrath of his own party time and time again?"

The New York Times on New Hampshire accents: "The voters of New Hampshire, their voices thick with the flinty accents of northern New England."

WCCO on New Englanders: "The Granite State is home to flinty New Englanders, fiercely independent voters who are neither Democrat nor Republican."

The Independent on Iowa's voters: "Iowa’s flinty voters were not impressed, and they delivered a stunning early victory for Mr Obama, knocking the wind out of the Clinton campaign, which only managed third place."

David Axelrod on how our eyes have to be: "And that’s the approach he’s going to take. If we’re going to do the things we need to do, the things you mentioned, the things that are going to strengthen the middle class in our economy, we’re going to have to be very, very flinty-eyed about what we can keep and what we don’t."

The Wall Street Journal on elderly Republicans from New England, who are apparently a small enough group to generalize about: "A huge group, one too varied to generalize about because it includes flinty elderly Republicans from New England, home-schooling mothers in Ohio, libertarianish Republicans in Colorado, suburban patriots outside the big cities, and many others."

So what does flinty actually mean? According to Miriam-Webster, it means "resembling flint." Ah, Flint! No jobs, abandoned car factories, Michael Moore. No, the other flint—it's stern and unyielding, like a rock, presumably. Though we do feel the need to ask that if New Hampshire voters are indeed flinty, then how is it that they are also notoriously fickle? Maybe they're just effeminate.

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