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Conservapedia:Best New Conservative Words

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In-depth analysis

Andrew Schlafly has a habit of starting many projects, but rarely follows through on them. One of the most notorious exceptions to this rule may be Best New Conservative Words: Since January 2009, Andrew Schlafly – and a few other Conservapedians – have presented us with 468 words (as of September 2012) which he deems to be conservative newspeak. Schlafly's central claim is that their rate of generation, conveniently doubling perfectly each century, exceeds the one for "liberal" words, which somehow foreshadows the eventual triumph of conservatism.[1] Their current breakdown by century is as follows:

Century # New Conservative Terms Most Prolific Periods
1600s 30 period following publication of KJV
1700s 58 Great Awaken., Am. Revol., Const. Conv.
1800s 118 1820s - political transition and conflict
1900s 238 1940s - WWII and postwar transition
2000s 24(preliminary)

Definition of a "conservative word"[edit]

The criteria for classifying a word according to the political spectrum remain suspiciously elusive – is it its usage? or the political leaning of the person who coined it? or just words starting with cons? In response to the many questions that inevitably graced the corresponding talk page from confused users, Andrew Schlafly provided an explanation that leaves much to the imagination: conservative words express insights that are conservative.

This merely raises more questions. What's a 'conservative insight'? How does each word express such an insight, and what exactly is the nature of the insight in each case?

When questioned on these issues, Andrew Schlafly deploys a largely defensive weapon from his arsenal of weapons of debate tactic, most commonly the largely defensive weapon of Schlafly Stretch.

An example of Schlafly defining a "conservative" word can be seen in his defence of the inclusion of the word "Radar" in his list.[2] When questioned why "radar" was conservative and not "laser", "radio" or "sonar", Schlafly's initial response was, "I don't see sonar, laser and radio as adding any conservative insight," and "because [radar] was the first and it has broader use than your other example." He then went on to state that, in the case of "radar;"

The inclusion of "radar" is debatable, but essentially it is a powerful self-defense mechanism conceptually analogous to the Reagan's concept of SDI and the Second Amendment, which liberals loathed.

In other words, Schlafly can see no difference between a nation's ability to defend its borders (no matter how bizarre those abilities may be) and the right for American citizens to bear arms. And because liberals are in favour of gun control, radar must thus be a conservative word.

The list[edit]

Thanks to this "rigorous" process for word selection, it's hard to overstate how bizarre Schlafly's list turned out. A few entries seem appropriate, as obvious conservative buzzwords or neologisms: God-fearing, free market, refudiate. Several are values that conservatives often profess to embrace, but so do other folks: common sense, human rights, property right, American dream. Others seem rather more associated with the left than the right: socialist, grassroots, doublethink. (The first was coined by supporters of socialism, and the last by the hardcore socialist George Orwell.)

But the majority are weirder still: words with only the vaguest ties to anything political, including tortured "definitions" explaining how they expose liberal mendacity. Incoherent, gambit, correlate, caucus, plasticity, terrorism, tour de force, taxpayer, leadership, local, constant, bedrock, editorialize, worldview, alcoholism, harmless error, skullduggery, accuracy, ugly duckling, crackpot, deflation ("an increase in the value of savings"), straw man, phony, greasy spoon, vet, mindset, Eagle Scout, apple pie, balkanize, trivia, gang up, goon, shotgun marriage, charisma, life vest, transistor, elitism, parenting, back burner, informed consent, muscle car, wannabe, cyberbullying, patent troll – every one of these is a Best New Conservative Word. And there are so many more, thanks to the scientific science of conservative word-coining!

Schlafly also provides a helpful list of liberal alternative terms, cautioning that they have "deceptive, or nonsensical, meanings." Words such as atheist, communism, creationism, moderate, and unfair would seem to be the exclusive provenance of liberal scum. As the page provides an exhaustive list of liberal words (far smaller than the conservative set), any reasonable person would agree that conservative ideas are growing much faster than liberal ones, and therefore liberalism is certain to go extinct. Incredibly, mainstream "historians" have yet to recognize this fact.


Does the pattern hold regardless of which periods are analyzed?[edit]

Little can be said about Andrew Schlafly's hand-waving definition, but he does make a quantitative claim which can be examined with a statistical approach:

Powerful, insightful new conservative terms have grown at a geometric rate, roughly doubling every century. For every insightful new conservative term originating in the 1600s, there are two new terms originating in the 1700s, four new terms in the 1800s, and eight new terms in the 1900s, for a pattern of "1-2-4-8".

words per century
words per 50 years

The flaw in this observation is typical of Andrew Schlafly: True, the distribution of the words per century follows Schlafly's dictum. But Opcn once extracted the dates of the words at Schlafly's essay and when he looked at periods of fifty years, the pattern was less visible: With the only exception of the 18th century, the second half of a century is less prone to bring conservative words forward than the first. That's quite surprising: if Schlafly's statement were correct, one would expect it to be true not only for the obvious – so arbitrary – classification into words of the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th century, but also for a classes like 1625 - 1724, 1725 - 1824, 1825 - 1924, etc. But this implies that the geometric increase can be applied to smaller classes, too: a growth of 100% per century implies a growth of 41.1% each fifty years – or an increase of 7.2% per decade. To put it in another way: if one looks only on the words dated between 1600 and 1999, one would expect 41.4% being created in the first half of a century and 58.6% in the second half.

words per 25 years
words per quarter of a century

A similar observation should hold true if we look at the quarters of a century. But here, Schlafly's idea of a geometric curve doesn't work at all: Neither a curve representing the doubling of the number of words per century nor the geometric increase which approximates the data best fits the empirical values. In fact by performing a χ2-test for classification into quarters of a century (picture on the rigth), we are confident that the values don't origin from a law as imagined by Andrew Schlafly. In fact, whether you divide the centuries in decades, classes of twenty, twenty-five or thirty-three years, the data always fits better a uniform distribution that a geometric law. How does this happen?

Is it really a perfect geometric growth?[edit]


As mentioned above, Andrew Schlafly is generally content with simply looking at the breakdown by century to support his claims.

But is the number correct – even in his own model? In July 2010, 280 words for which he gave then at least the decade of their origin, and which were created between 1600 and 1999 were looked up. This leads to the empirical cumulated distribution function of the pic on the left, for which a best fitting geometric curve can be found via a Maximum-Likelihood-Estimation (MLE). Performing this calculation, the estimator for the increase of the number of words per century is not 100% (red line), but 82.8% (orange line).

The χ2 tests were performed for both rates.

"Layers" and selection bias[edit]

When Andrew Schlafly updates his list, he usually adds a bunch of words at the same time, or in very short succession, in which the growth pattern is replicated. He refers to these updates as "layers". For example, the last "layer" to be completed involved the addition of 13 new words between July 10th and 23rd, 2010.[3] Andrew Schafly, though perhaps the only living creature to reach a full score when he quantifies his open mind, is misled by his preconception: obviously, when finding a word for the 17th century, he actively looked for two words in the 18th century, four in the 19th century, and eight in the 20th. So, he skewed the data, and reached his nearly perfect fit. But as he had ignored the distribution of the words within the century, this distribution is more unbiased – and shows his law to be false.

Too good to be true[edit]

When Andrew Schlafly announced new conservative words, he repeatedly achieved what he calls a perfect layer (1-2-4-8) of new conservative words, i.e. he found fifteen words such that 1 word was from the 17th century, 2 were from the 18th century, 4 were from the 19th century and 8 were from of the 20th century.

What's the probability of getting a perfect layer? Here are the probabilities for the century of origin of a random conservative words, assuming that his insight is correct:

Century Probability
17th 1/15
18th 2/15
19th 4/15
20th 8/15

For a layer, he has to find 15 words. It's easy to calculate the probability that these 15 words form a perfect layer:

Failed to parse (syntax error): {\displaystyle \frac{15!}{8!×4!×2!×1!} × (1/15)^1 × (2/15)^2 × (4/15)^4 × (8/15)^8} Failed to parse (syntax error): {\displaystyle = 675675 × \frac{2 ^{34}}{15^{15}} = 0.0265}

2.65% is the probability to choose 15 words and get a perfect layer instead of 2-1-4-8 or 1-2-5-7... And this remarkable deed was performed a couple of times, which shows that Andrew Schlafly actively (though not necessarily consciously) was looking for words to match his pattern, i.e., he showed a selection bias – a kind of affirmative action for newer words.

An experiment[edit]

On June 9, 2009, Andrew Schlafly proclaimed Conservapedia's Law:

Conservapedia's Law is the observation that conservative insights increase over time at a geometric rate, as in 1-2-4-8-16-etc.

For example, there is a doubling in effective new conservative terms per century.

This remarkable precise observation was bolstered over the time by a list of 300 conservative words.

Powerful, insightful new conservative terms have grown at a geometric rate, roughly doubling every century. For every insightful new conservative term originating in the 1600s, there are two new terms originating in the 1700s, four new terms in the 1800s, and eight new terms in the 1900s, for a pattern of "1-2-4-8". This implies a more conservative future and a correlation between conservatism and truth. The year 1612 is our starting point: the King James Version of the Bible was published in 1611, and William Shakespeare had written nearly all his plays.[4]

In an uncharacteristic departure from CP's usual policy of excluding and reverting criticism, Schlafly allowed LArron to present his points against Conservapedia's Law at the essay's talk page in July and August 2010.[5] Below is a description of these criticisms and Schlafly's response to them, mostly in the same form as they were originally posted at CP.

The pic on the right shows the percentage of terms per century in which they were first mentioned.
Error creating thumbnail: File missing
Best Conservative New Words
The distribution of these conservative words is even more remarkable as it doesn't reflect the general trends of creating new words. To exemplify this, here is a sample of ≈ 42,000 words from the word book of an Ubuntu distribution with the creation date automatically retrieved from Merriam-Webster online (the gray areas of the two diagrams overlap).
distribution of 42,000 words
It was shown earlier that the Conservapedia's Law doesn't hold for shorter periods of time than centuries. But Andrew Schlafly stated that he didn't see any merit in such an observation: The entry observes that new terms are generated at higher rates during productive periods within decades, for example just after or during religious awakenings.[6]
Cons. Words per Decade
Interestingly, an effect of the Great Religious Awakenings couldn't be observed, neither in the number of conservative words nor in the number of all words.
All Words per Decade

No methodology is given how the conservative words are detected and gathered. To put the whole thing on a sounder ground, Andrew Schlafly was asked to take an unbiased test: He was given a list of 500 words, which were – according to the Merriam Webster – first mentioned between 1600 and 1999. Andrew Schlafly objected to this sample as newer words are not well represented in word-books. So a second sample was propelled (400 years should be enough to prove his law), and he was willing to mark the words he thinks to be conservative.

The five hundred words were taken at random from the suitable subset of the 42,000 words, and so the sample distribution matches the overall distribution
500 Words per Centuries
Andrew Schlafly identified 41 words (8.2%) as conservative. The distribution of these 41 words over the centuries does not show a geometric progression.
Identified as Conservative
In fact, their distribution mirrors the distribution of the whole sample, as each century ≈ 8% of the words are identified as conservative.
This linear dependence can be found for shorter periods of time (here for steps of 20 years) - and is found to be statistically significant.
Periods of 20 years
A striking contrast to this is the absence of any connection between Andrew Schlafly's list of over 300 conservative words, and a general distribution of the creation of words.
Periods of 20 years
However, if one maps the percentage of words in - e.g. - a 20 years' period in the corresponding century (24% of all 20th-century word are from the 1900s, 18% from the 1920s, 26% from the 1940s, and so forth...), one finds again a positive correlation.
percentages over 20 years

Andrew Schlafly explains the discrepancies as follows:

That's a fascinating analysis, but its meaning is simply this: roughly 8% of all new words are conservative in nature. That is greater than the number of words I would have identified as liberal in nature.

But very few of these words qualified for our list, which expressly consists of the "best" new conservative words. Those words are being generated at a geometric rate.--Andy Schlafly 11:55, 28 July 2010 (EDT)[7]

But this is wishful thinking only: Andrew Schlafly has shown that he is able to generate candidates for his list for any time period as it is needed to fit his prediction. He could as easily make a list following a 1-3-9-27 (or 2-3-5-7-11) pattern.

Even a claim like: the number of Best New Conservative Words is not corroborated in any way by the list of the cp:Essay:Best New Conservative Words, and the geometric progressions seems to be just the approximation of a phantasy.

A problem with the count[edit]

On July 20, 2010, Andrew Schlafly happily announced:


We completed the perfect doubling by century for Best New Conservative Terms by adding this term invented in 1914: "Founding Fathers." [8]

The reason for his exuberance was the following little table:

Century # New Conservative Terms Most Prolific Periods
1600s 20 period following publication of KJV
1700s 40 Great Awaken., Am. Revol., Const. Conv.
1800s 80 1820s - political transition and conflict
1900s 160 1940s - WWII and postwar transition
2000s 13 (preliminary)

There was only one problem: Taking the list of conservative words and actually counting them yielded the following:

century 1600s 1700s 1800s 1900s 2000s
words 20 40 81 150 14

(here's a sortable list, do your own recount :-)

This shows the inherent selection bias par excellence: Andrew Schlafly stopped the search for conservative words the moment he thought to have reached his goal.

Did this worry Andrew Schlafly? When informed about this error and its implications...

So, you always reached your goal, though this was an arbitrary one, set by a typo. This implies that you are actively targeting a ratio, and that this ratio is independent of a actual distribution of the conservative words.--RonLar 11:16, 28 July 2010 (EDT)[9]

...he ignored it and sidestepped:

Typos and counting errors are, of course, inevitable; your own comment above has an error in its last seven words. Errors can be found in the greatest of works, such as Bernard Riemann's famous mathematical lecture. None of this undermines the value of Riemann's work ... or ours. The best new conservative words do double by century, and it would be nearly impossible to identify such a large number closely fitting that pattern unless the underlying pattern existed.--Andy Schlafly 12:06, 28 July 2010 (EDT)[10]

Within a few weeks he found 10 words for the 20th century (defeatism, machismo, irreducible complexity, American way, gimmick, coolant, civil defense, sacred cow, one trick pony and muckraker) – and astonishingly no word from another period!

Conveniently, he was also able to remove "competitive"img "comparative advantage"img, resulting in this distribution:

century 1600s 1700s 1800s 1900s 2000s
words 20 40 80 160 14

Voilà, perfection was reached again! It's not the imaginary concept of conservative words that's following Conservapedia's Law, but only Andrew Schlafly himself.

The words[edit]

And here is the list of the 336 words currently (Oct 2010) declared to be conservative by no one less but Andrew Schlafly.

Andrew Schlafly's conclusion[edit]

Perhaps even more bizarre than Andrew Schlafly's statistical methods and hand-waving logic is the interpretation he made of his 'findings'. Andrew Schlafly took the observed increase in conservative terms to be indicative of a profound trend lying under wider society – that language is somehow becoming "more conservative" and that therefore society too is becoming more conservative.

Andrew Schlafly: Implications of a geometric increase for new conservative terms include a more conservative future and a correlation between conservatism and truth.

Andrew Schlafly: ...the evidence is that the United States is growing more conservative just as the English language is. This entry shows that the creation of insightful new conservatives (sic) words is greater in quality and frequency than that of new liberal words. Over time, culture and politics must inexorably follow the lead of language. That doesn't mean a liberal politician won't use smoke-and-mirrors to be elected occasionally against the grain, but the flow dictated by language cannot be reversed.[11]

But even if true, "Conservapedia's Law" could be the result of another mechanism: Andrew Schlafly's model takes into account only the creation of new words. But words disappear, too. So, an editor presented him with an alternative explanation:

Imagine a country where a constant number of conservative words is created each year, but where these words have a half-time of 100 years, that is, e.g, only half of the words used in 1600 were still in use in 1700.
Such a country would have the same distribution of conservative words as Conservapedia's Law implies – but the overall number of conservative words becomes constant after a while... [12]

To show how absurd this idea is, Andrew Schlafly invents a new, surprising property of conservative words:

Andrew Schlafly: The conservative words are remarkably durable and long-lasting, while the liberal terms (like "population control") fall out of favor quite quickly.[13]


  1. From the intro of CP's essay "Best New Conservative Words"
  2. Taken from the talk-page archives
  3. [4]
  4. cp:Essay:Conservapedia's Law
  5. During the exchange, "RonLar" was blocked twice by Schlafly's overeager goons, but dutifully unblocked by the master himself.
  6. personal conversation with the author
  7. [1]img
  8. [5](screencap)
  9. [2]img
  10. [3]img
  11. From Archive 1 of the talk page
  12. article's talk pageimg, Jul 27, 2010
  13. article's talk pageimg, Jul 27, 2010