It took me three tries to spell “sequester”

It’s the start of the sequester (or sequestration?) as we know it, and I feel fine.

Over the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding one very big word–sequester. I heard it tossed around one morning on the Diane Rehm Show alongside more familiar phrases like “immigration reform” and “gun control,” and was left completely and utterly confused. All I could remember about the unfamiliar word was that it started with the letter “s.” My poor fiancé was then subjected to a game of vocab charades in an attempt to help me figure out what it was that I had heard. Needless to say, it was an exciting Friday night.


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As a student in journalism school, I’ve been told time and time again to write at  a seventh grade level, as most people read at about the same rate as a 13-year-old. I’m pretty sure “sequestration” wasn’t on any of my middle school vocabulary tests.

It’s one of those words worth $40, as one of my professors would say. So, when journalists are taught not to “pay a dollar for a word you can get for a nickel,” why has “sequester” alluded this rule?

American Public Media’s Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal, perhaps one journalist whose focus lends itself to the use of such a large and intimidating legal term, has made an effort to buck this trend. Instead of dropping the s-bomb (sequester, I mean), Ryssdal chose to simply define the term as “government spending cuts.” Easy. He also challenged listeners to coin a new phrase for the sequester, noting that it didn’t have quite the charm of “fiscal cliff.” (The best of these, in my opinion, was “Cashtration.”)


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Continuing in the spirit of making coverage of the sequester a little less unbearable, Ryssdal hosted a series called “Six Degrees of Sequestration,“which featured a playlist for the sequester with songs like The Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” and War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends.”

Now that the sequester is a reality, some of the doom and gloom seems to have lifted, and hopefully we’ll be subjected to less media coverage of that very, very big word. Regardless, my hat’s off to Kai Ryssdal for making the sequester a little more fun and a lot easier to understand.


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