dog whistle

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dog whistle


dog whistle (plural dog whistles)

  1. A high-pitched whistle, inaudible to humans, used to train dogs.
    Synonyms: silent whistle, Galton's whistle
  2. (figuratively) That which is understood only by a narrow demographic.
    • 22 March 2012, Scott Tobias, AV Club Cabin Boy[1]
      But like a lot of these cult comedies, Cabin Boy was a dog whistle few could hear, and critics and audiences dismissed it quickly and forcefully: It left theaters with grosses south of $4 million and earned Elliott a “Worst New Star” Razzie nomination, no doubt for the adenoidal voice common to all fancy lads.
  3. (politics) A political allusion or comment that only a certain audience are intended to note and recognize the significance of.
    Synonym: codeword
    • 1995: Jim Coyle, Ottawa Citizen, October 15, p a9/1:
      On the lips of Premier Mike Harris, the term ‘special interest’ has the tone of epithet. It’s an all-purpose dog-whistle that those fed up with feminists, minorities, the undeserving poor hear loud and clear.
    • 2018 March 9, Bret Stephens, “In Praise of Globalists”, in New York Times[2]:
      Putting “globalist” in quotes suggests a jest or in-joke of sorts, so it’s at least possible this wasn’t intended as some kind of anti-Semitic dog whistle.

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