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US election word of the week: Acela primary

 © PhotoDiscIn this series we are looking at some of the language and terminology associated with the US electoral process in the run-up to the Presidential election in late 2016. This week’s word, hot off the press, is Acela primary.

If you are anything like me, this week’s election word will mean nothing to you. Despite years of watching The West Wing (and yes, I admit it, Scandal) the term Acela primary had never registered with me before now. So what is the Acela primary and why is it called that?



The Acela primary is the collective name given to the primary contests held in five north-eastern states, this year on April 26th. The states are Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and the contest is named after the high-speed train running from Boston to Washington that connects them:

This day is nicknamed the Acela Primary after the train service that connects these five states: the Amtrak Acela Express train, which runs through cities including Providence, Rhode Island; New Haven, Connecticut; Philadelphia; Wilmington, Delaware; and Baltimore.

As for what the word Acela actually means, I’ll let Amtrak explain:

When naming  our high speed rail service, we wanted it to stand for something. So we named it Acela, which is the combination of the words acceleration and excellence.

I’ll leave you to ponder whether Acela really is a combination of the words acceleration and excellence, and to make the inevitable puns about how Clinton and Trump appear to be on the fast track to their respective parties’ nominations.

Look out for the next post in this series. You can find past posts on the language of American politics here and here, or search for other posts in this series using the tag US politics.

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Liz Potter

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