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Origin of dog whistle
OTHER WORDS FROM dog whistledog-whis·tle, adjectivedog whistling, noun
Words nearby dog whistle
ABOUT THIS WORD
What does dog whistle mean?
A dog whistle is a political term about statements that appear innocent to the general public but they actually use subtle, coded language to communicate a secondary message to an intended group.
The messages are often racial or bigoted in nature, used to attract certain voters and energize them to vote.
Where does dog whistle come from?
The term dog whistle, as a device used for calling dogs and other animals with sensitive hearing, is recorded in the early 1800s.
Dog whistle saw political use as early as the 1940s when a speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt was likened to a dog whistle, which meant it was understandable by some but not others.
The contemporary sense of dog whistle, however, is firmly established in 1995 when a Canadian newspaper described language like “special interest” as a “dog-whistle that those fed up with feminists, minorities, the undeserving poor hear loud and clear.”
Dog whistle spread in the Australian, United Kingdom, and American political press during the 1990s. A phrase, like welfare reform and inner cities, were seen by some observers as a conservative dog whistle to certain white voters, meant to stir up unfounded fears of Black people abusing social support and living lives of drug and crime.
Dog-whistle politics further expanded in the 2000s, especially used to describe presidential campaigns. During his 2004 reelection bid, for example, President George W. Bush was accused of dog-whistling when discussing a historic Supreme Court decision that was overturned. The average voter, it’s said, picked up nothing controversial in the remarks, but the Christian conservative heard the hint that Bush was willing to nominate a justice willing to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Dog whistle gained new prominence during Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Many critics heard in his choruses of law and order, Make America Great Again, and American First as dog whistles: packaging in general, nice-seeming slogans that subliminally suggest a vision for a country where white, Christian males are in power once more.
While I've got the Vice President here, let's have a little history lesson about the dog-whistle that is the phrase "law and order." When people in positions of power spout the phrase "law and order" you can be pretty confident that they are white-supremacists. 1/ https://t.co/v15CnAKsHz
— Cara Zelaya (@carazelaya) May 29, 2020
How is dog whistle used in real life?
When language is charged as a political dog whistle, it is usually in an attempt to reveal the candidate’s unspoken agenda, expose their lack of honesty, and call out tactics like race-baiting or anti-Semitism.
More examples of dog whistle:
“When you’ve been playing dog-whistle racial politics, don’t be surprised when someone with a fully racist bullhorn walks in to find a warmed-up audience.”
—Manuel Pastor, Newsweek, July, 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
Example sentences from the Web for dog-whistle
Plus, talking of culture is a nice way to dog-whistle to evangelicals.
Dog-whistle politics probably date back at least to Cato the Elder, but in our time the practice was perfected by George W. Bush.
Neither the Master's calls nor the ear-ripping blasts of his dog-whistle could bring her back to The Place.Lad: A Dog|Albert Payson Terhune
Jack had a dog-whistle, so he took it off and gave it to her.Mopsa the Fairy|Jean Ingelow
He pulled a dog-whistle from his pocket and blew two shrill calls upon it.The Adventures of Harry Revel|Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch