Trend Watch

Oleaginous

David Brooks accused Ted Cruz of being oily


Definition

1) resembling or having the properties of oil
2) marked by an offensively ingratiating manner or quality

Oleaginous spiked on March 8th, after the word was used by New York Times columnist David Brooks, in reference to Senator Ted Cruz:

His rhetorical style will come across to young and independent voters as smarmy and oleaginous.

'Oleaginous' means "resembling or having the properties of oil." It's sometimes used to describe people who are a little too slick.

Brooks is not the only writer who has seen fit to employ this adjective when describing the senator from Texas; a fair number of other pundits have decided that Cruz merits this less-than-flattering descriptor.

Something about his affect — oleaginous, self-pleased, mega-churchish — sets my teeth aching.
—Michael Brendan Doughtery, The Week, 24 March 2015

Striking a pose that lands somewhere between the oleaginousness of a Joel Osteen and the self-assuredness of a midwestern vacuum-cleaner salesman, Cruz delivers his speeches as might a mass-market motivational speaker in an Atlantic City Convention Center.
—Charles Cooke, The National Review, 23 March 2015

Cruz has a Joe McCarthy-esque oleaginous disingenuousness (I've been waiting to write that for a while); won't his charms wear off soon?
—Carter Eskew, The Washington Post, 18 February 2016

Oleaginous came to the English language in the 15th century from Latin via the Middle French. For several hundred years the word simply had such meanings as "resembling or having the properties of oil" and "containing or producing oil." In the early 19th century it began to be used in a figurative sense, to refer to people or things that were perhaps a little too slick.

To be fair to Cruz, he is hardly the first person to see himself described repeatedly as oleaginous. And given that our politicians are often viewed as having excessively ingratiating manners, it is not surprising at all that our records show that oleaginous was often used to describe another aspirant to, and holder of, the nation’s highest elected office: William Jefferson Clinton (and sometimes Hillary Clinton as well).

And he watched as they were stymied by cautious moderates in the U.S. Senate (Bob Dole, proprietor) and an oleaginous President Clinton.
—Dick Williams, The Atlanta Journal, 2 March 1996

One of the most impressive, not to say disgusting, aspects of the last few days' television has been the oleaginous aplomb with which President Clinton has presented his penitent soul to the world.
—Paul Hoggart, The Times [London, England], 14 September 1998

The great pity of Rick Lazio is that he lacks [Hillary] Clinton's oleaginous skills.
—Joseph Dolman, Newsday, 1 November 2000



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