How 'full stop' got to be the new 'period' in Washington

'Full stop' is sort of a younger cousin to 'at the end of the day,' which also began as a Britishism. The term is on the rise on Capitol Hill and at home in the Obama White House.

Nati Harnik/AP/File
Republican presidential candidate, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, on July 18, 2015. Asked recently about Bruce Jenner's decision to become Caitlyn Jenner, Santorum responded: "My job as a human being is to treat everybody with dignity or respect – period, stop, full stop, no qualification to that."

Full stop. The British term for the punctuation mark at the end of a sentence, it’s become increasingly used in American politics – along with the rest of popular culture – to declare an end to any doubts whatsoever about something.

 “Americans have taken to using full stop not to literally mean a period, but to emphasize that they are referring to a complete sentence, or by extension, a complete idea or phenomenon,” Ben Yagoda, an author and University of Delaware professor of journalism and English, observed on his “Not One-Off Britishisms” blog.

Before announcing his presidential bid, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley made clear in December his disdain for the CIA’s highly controversial interrogation tactics. “I don’t believe the United States should torture,” he said. “Period. Full stop.’’

More recently, George Washington University political scientist John Sides was asked in May if early polls were relevant to who would take office: “They are not. Full stop.” A month later, Republican Rick Santorum, queried on Bruce Jenner’s decision to become Caitlyn Jenner, responded: “My job as a human being is to treat everybody with dignity or respect – period, stop, full stop, no qualification to that.” That same month, Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer discussed Hillary Clinton’s supposed political invincibility in the Hawkeye State: “The reality is, this is a field where nobody has effectively stepped up to challenge Hillary Clinton, full stop.”

“Full stop” is sort of a younger cousin to “at the end of the day,” which began as a Britishism – to the annoyance of many in the UK – and, of course, is now common here. President Obama includes “full stop” in his rhetorical arsenal from time to time.

Its usage also has gone up on Capitol Hill during congressional floor debates in recent years, according to the Sunlight Foundation’s handy CapitolWords.org website. Among those mentioning it the most frequently: Clinton, when she was a New York senator.

Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark write their "Speaking Politics" blog exclusively for Politics Voices. 

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