In summary

If you tune into a press conference or speech by Gov. Gavin Newsom, you often need a translator to figure out what he’s saying. Here’s a fun way to keep up.

Gavin Newsom’s lingo bingo is back — and it’s here to stay.

In March, when the governor delivered his annual State of the State speech to a mostly-empty Dodger Stadium, CalMatters rolled out a tool to help viewers watch along from home: A bingo card. As even the most casual observer of California politics knows, the governor has a particular way with words. It’s technocratic, peppered with buzzwords and unexplained acronyms and as likely to befuddle as impress. We hoped to turn his odd, but predictable, arsenal of words and phrases into a game.

But our timing was a bit off. The governor’s stadium speech was a pre-written prelude to his campaign against an all-but-certain recall election coming later this year. It’s soaring rhetoric and easily digestible syntax may have come from the governor, but arrived with a thick sheen of polish from his communications team. 

The authentic Newsom is further from the teleprompters on the campaign trail. It’s the press conferences for policy announcements and hours-long budget presentations where he really speaks freely. And, some might say, strangely. 

Newsomese is one part Silicon Valley boardroom speak — using “dialogue” and “architect” as verbs or deploying “in real time” when mere mortals would simply opt for “now.” Stir in some Bay Area-inflected folksiness —  he’s quick with a Jerry Garcia homage, a panoply of “old adages” and with his favorite “African proverb” (which may not in fact be African). Then add a heaping teaspoon of sui generis neologisms straight from the governor’s well-groomed head: regularly reminding us that “localism is determinative” or pronouncing the word “literally” like that

It’s a particularly frothy brew of diverse rhetorical styles and tics. Or as the governor might say, “out of many parts, one body.” So the next time you see the governor at the mic, play along.

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Ben Christopher

Ben covers California politics and elections. Prior to that, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and budget. Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, he has written...

John Osborn D'Agostino

John Osborn D’Agostino is an award-winning data journalist, web developer and game designer. Previously, he's worked with The Hechinger Report, EdSource, the East Bay Express, Berkeleyside, and the North...