Time to retire: “Drunk the Kool-Aid”


Here’s a cliché phrase whose time to retire has come:  “Drunk the Kool-Aid.”

Once upon a time it may have been a culturally cool reference to the mass suicide at Jonestown, Guyana.  Following the charismatic and crazy minister Jim Jones, more than 900 people committed suicide, most by drinking cyanide in a Kool-Aid solution.  With some irony we should note that Kool-Aid may not have been used at Jonestown at all, but a similar product, Flav-R-Aid.

Makers of Kool-Aid are probably not too happy about the common use of the phrase now, though it would be interesting to see what their marketing studies show — does the use of the phrase hurt sales or keep the name of the product in the public’s mind?

No matter.  Use of the phrase to mean that an insult target is brainlessly following some concept is tired, decrepit, grating, and in need of retirement.

Uses just in the past few days:

  • Daily Kos:  “Of course, the CoC crowd have drunk the kool-aid and blamed “liberal regulators” for their problem.”
  • Daily Green, by Marion Nestle:  “But before you decide that I must have drunk the Kool Aid on this one, hear me out. He really is a good choice for this job.”
  • In The Baltimore Sun, the Rev. Jason Poling:  “But I must have drunk the Kool-Aid back in civics class, because when I think about freedom, liberty, just government and all that good stuff, my thoughts fly to the Declaration of Independence.”
  • The Wall Street Journal, John Paul Newport:  “I remember pondering these issues back when I first started paying attention to golf as an adult, before I’d drunk the Kool-Aid.”
  • Michael Hirsh in Washington Monthly:  “Before long, Power says, she had ‘drunk the Kool-Aid‘ on Obama.”  [And this usage in an otherwise excellent story that you really should read.]
  • Bill King in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:  “I still haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid when it comes to Big 12 teams, so while I recognize the Pokes have a high-powered offense that some expect to overpower the Dogs defense, and others question whether Georgia’s offense, minus last year’s star power, can keep up, I don’t believe that’s going to be the season’s biggest road challenge.”  [Longest sentence in this list?]
  • Todd Robberson in a blog of the Dallas Morning News: “Steve Salazar on the City Council has drunk the Kool-Aid on this subject, convinced that the online and phone-in survey conducted last year regarding possible names for Industrial somehow constituted a scientific poll with, as Salazar told us, a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.”
  • TPM, “Teamster blasting Rush Limbaugh”: “He’s drunk the Kool-Aid that unions are socialism and socialism is evil.”
  • Politics Daily:  “If you feel like forwarding this to those who are open minded and have not drunk the Kool-Aid, feel free.”
  • Newsbusters: “Back on Thursday, March 5 when Obama held a dog and pony show at the White House, CBS drunk the kool-aid.”  [When I used the phrase "drunk the Kool-Aid," I thought I'd avoid incorrect grammar in use of the Kool-Aid phrase -- clearly I was wrong.]
  • Frank Rich in The New York Times:  “Those Republicans who have not drunk the Palin Kool-Aid are apocalyptic for good reason.”  [This is the one that set me off, today -- Rich is too good a writer to drink the Kool-Aid on using such clichés.]

Can we just retire the phrase now?  Copy editor’s, make a note of Darrell’s Corollary:  When any writer uses the phrase “drunk the Kool-Aid” to mean something other than someone has drunk some Kool-Aid, the piece needs to be rewritten.

Building in Hasting, Nebraska, where Kool-Aid was invented by Gerard and Edwin Perkins.  Wikimedia photo

Building in Hasting, Nebraska, where Kool-Aid was invented by Gerard and Edwin Perkins. Wikimedia photo

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5 Responses to Time to retire: “Drunk the Kool-Aid”

  1. Ross says:

    Everyone should be saying, “That person is simply incapable of independent thought and is in dire need of deprogramming” and leave it at that. These stupid catch phrases are nothing short of imbecilic.

    Like

  2. Donna B. says:

    Ellie, in an effort at closure and an attempt to redeem my self-esteem, I will not share my kool-aid with you.

    Like

  3. Ellie says:

    OK, I’ll put it on my list which includes, “Sharing, closure, self-esteem (when what is really meant is ‘self respect’) and a host of others. I refuse, however, to give up my new catchphrase, “Taking a hike on the Appalachian Trail.” Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

    Like

  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Not in the past participle, no. Past tense, yes. I chose “drunk” because I wanted to avoid the ungrammatical “have drank” phrasing.

    Like

  5. Micah says:

    Shouldn’t everyone be saying “**drank** the Kool-Aid” anyway?

    Like

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