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How 'cray-cray' made the Oxford Dictionary

Politics is getting more hyperbolic, more insult-driven, and more eager to gobble up terms from pop culture.

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    President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference following the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, on Monday. At a recent fundraiser, the president used the term 'cray' to dismiss the claims of climate deniers.
    Susan Walsh/AP
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“Cray-cray.” An extreme level of crazy behavior.

Politics is getting more hyperbolic, more insult-driven, and more eager to gobble up terms from pop culture. “Cray-cray” has been around for a while to describe derangement – its first appearance in the Online Slang Dictionary came in 2001 – but it appears to have become more prevalent in the news over the past year.

The Washington Times’s Charles Hurt concluded that President Obama was “truly cray-cray” last November when the president issued an executive order on immigration that was deeply loathed in conservative circles. Then, before he left The Daily Show, Jon Stewart in April criticized conservative Supreme Court justices’ “anti-gay cray-cray” opposition to same-sex marriage. USA Today’s Eileen Rivers said in a preview of the August Republican presidential debate: “Even Donald Trump supporters should have an easy enough time pointing out the GOP candidate’s potential for bringing the cray-cray to tonight's debate.”

But it drew a whole new level of attention when Obama, appearing at a fundraiser, jokingly dismissed climate-change deniers as “cray.” And after last weekend’s Democratic debate, Politico’s Glenn Thrush summarized Hillary Clinton’s oft-criticized statement about her Wall Street contributions and the 9/11 attacks by concluding: “Hillary said something really cray-cray.”

Such is the power of “cray” that the Oxford Dictionary officially added it – along with “clickbait,” “YOLO” and other popular terms – to its lexicon last year. At the same time, Lake Superior State University has included it in its annual list of words that should be banished.

It popped up this month during country music’s CMA Awards, when superstars Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood slipped in “cray-cray” during a current-events parody. Rolling Stone called the term “dated.”

Chuck McCutcheon writes his "Speaking Politics" blog exclusively for Politics Voices.

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