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After the results of the midterm election ...


Lookups spiked on November 3, 2010, after midterm election results were reported.


President Obama used the word when acknowledging that Democratic losses provided humbling lessons:

"Now, I'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I did last night. I'm sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons."

A shellacking is a decisive defeat.

The word comes from the combination of "shell" and "lacquer" -- a shellac is a type of lacquer that becomes as hard as a shell.

But how did shellacking acquire the sense that President Obama used?

It seems that shellac had come to mean both "to get drunk" and "to beat up" as a slang term by the 1930s, and one (or both) of these senses led to the "defeat decisively" meaning used today.

Photo credit: D.H. Parks / flickr

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