English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I puzzled over the first line of the article of December 9’s Time magazine titled "Des Moines Dust-Up", which reads;

'12ers (minus Huntsman) square-off at Drake University for ABC News/Yahoo! News/WOI-TV/Des Moines Register/Iowa GOP debate from 9 - 11 pm ET.

As it didn’t occur to me that 12ers means 2012 Presidential candidates (until I reasoned it out by the context), I searched for definitions of 12ers on Google, and found that only Wikipedia provides the following definition:

‘12"ers’ is a 1987/1988 remix album released by Phil Collins. The album contains six tracks from his 1985 hit album, No Jacket required, remixed.....

Is 12ers widely-accepted as the word representing for 2012 presidential candidates? Do Americans immediately associate 12ers with Presidential candidates, not Phil Collins’ album?

Is this word automatically renewed every 4 years as 04ers, 08ers, 16ers, 20ers, and n+4ers without public consensus?

share|improve this question
One would think finding no mention of it via Google would show that it is not "well-established". – GEdgar Dec 11 '11 at 2:14
The typical meaning of Twelvers: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelver – onomatomaniak Dec 11 '11 at 6:55
Note the " in the Phil Collins album title, is notation for inch, so I'd pronounce it "12 inchers". From Wikipedia: "The remixes on this album were originally released on various 12- inch LP singles" – Hugo Dec 11 '11 at 14:37
up vote 2 down vote accepted

12ers may not be simply Time-speak, as Prof. Lawler notes, but Washington-speak in general.

I searched for 08ers on time.com, and turned up this snippet:

The AP continues its questions to the WH ’08ers with, “What time is ‘sleeping in?’”

The article goes on to mention Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Mitt Romney, Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, et al., so apparently it was very early in the 2008 campaign.

Following Time's reference to its source in the National Journal, I repeated the 08ers search there, and found a number of links referencing the 2008 campaign.

Repeating the search with 04ers, however, turned up nothing, so either this construction originated with 08ers, or the National Journal's searchable archives don't go back that far.

Addendum: Searching for 12ers on NationalJournal.com turned up nothing. Perhaps they dropped the term after Time coopted it?

share|improve this answer
Considering how I’ve already got me some 54 Fourteeners and 637 Thirteeners, I don’t think Twelvers are even worth talking about. 😈 But really, this is just trendy talk, and interferes with better-established uses of such terms. – tchrist Feb 21 '12 at 21:24
@tchrist I agree -- 12ers is a clunky term no doubt formulated by those who want to pose as Washington cognoscenti. But I wonder if they realized that 08ers gets read as waiters? That's what many of the candidates would be if they didn't have the money to get into politics... (Wait, you've climbed or been on almost 700 peaks over 13,000 ft? Whoa.) – Gnawme Feb 21 '12 at 21:38

No, it appears to be just Time-speak.

Perhaps it's formed by analogy with Birthers,

'Republicans who refuse to believe Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A.'

12ers might therefore mean

'Republicans who refuse to allow Barack Obama to run unopposed in 2012.'

share|improve this answer
I don't know about the analogy, but I agree I've never heard the term in any other elections. – Lynn Dec 11 '11 at 0:22
I think even we in the UK would have noticed if there'd been 8-ers or 4-ers in recent presidential election alignments. – FumbleFingers Dec 11 '11 at 1:25
Time-speak is well-established. See Wolcott Gibbs' famous 1936 parody of Henry Luce and his magazines in The New Yorker – John Lawler Dec 11 '11 at 1:58

Cultural references have to start somewhere. Sounds like Time is trying to institute one.

share|improve this answer
I asked currency of “heartland shout-out” and “stemwinding one’s way through” in this forum yesterday, both of which appeared in an article of New York Times. Some users said they’ve never heard them, Some thought them odd. Time “scooped” 12ers. It seems as if American journals are racing for coinage of new words and novel ways of expression. – Yoichi Oishi Dec 11 '11 at 5:39

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.