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US election word of the week: war chest

 © 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 November. This week’s word is war chest.

A candidate fighting an election in the US needs a great deal of money: it is estimated that the last presidential election campaign cost around $1 billion for each of the two main candidates. We have looked before at the ways in which this money is raised but this week I want to focus on the colourful term war chest, which is used to refer to the amount of money a candidate has available:

Mrs. Clinton will have a huge war chest for last-minute advertising and organizing at a time when she has regained her lead in public opinion polls.
Of the $64 million he raised with the Republican National Committee, some percentage will go into local and state races, rather than Trump’s war chest alone.

The term conjures up images of a large wooden chest bound with iron and spilling over with gold and possibly jewels, but it seems this image is inaccurate; according to the Oxford English Dictionary, its first use is attested as recently as 1901. However, this citation comes from a book about the Borgias, the colourful papal dynsasty of Renaissance Italy, which at least fits in with the idea of a chest overflowing with gold and jewels.

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

Liz Potter

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