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I need help with the connotation of the phrase flip flop. Let me explain – I am working on a small project that is meant to promote travelling and education through travelling and getting to know other cultures. I have to come up with a catchy name for it. “Flip-flop nation” came to mind but I was wondering if used in this way the phrase carries the right emotional association. I know that flip flop also has several negative meanings.

I would appreciate any insight on this subject.

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Yes, flip-flop already has many different meanings. Maybe you should think of another word. Oh, and stop wandering. –  Mr Lister Oct 25 '12 at 8:58
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Currently, of course, the term invokes images of the USA's politicians changing their political tune every time the numbers in a poll change. Very bad emotional associations: Can't be trusted, Janus-faced, two-faced, liar, Etch-a-Sketch, and opportunistic. –  user21497 Oct 25 '12 at 9:25
    
Well, you can't use "Thong Nation" for almost the same reason (it has irrelevant associations that you won't want). I don't know how "Sandal Nation" sounds. I thought you were referring to the shoe, but perhaps as JR thinks in his answer, you mean "back and forth." –  JAM Oct 25 '12 at 13:37
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Can you add to your question what good connotation of 'flip-flop' you are thinking of? My first impression s of the word out of context are 1) the loose sandals worn at the beach, 2) to change ones mind back and forth 3) a fish just caught flopping around on deck. –  Mitch Oct 25 '12 at 14:19
    
To me, flip-flop either triggers thoughts of beach sandals or tergiversation.Some universities have what they call a semester-at-sea,intended to take students to a faraway land, presumably inspired by the notion that travel expands the mind. –  Autoresponder Oct 26 '12 at 14:14
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5 Answers

As far as our subjective opinions are concerned, the primary use of flip-flop for me is a set of logic gates that comprise a single bit of memory. But that's just me and I don't think this would have any impact.

The secondary meaning is a person (politician) who changes allegiances (and opinions) to be always "with the winner", a person of dubious morals and no loyalty, attaching no value for own declarations. This is a definitely negative connotation and it could be a popular meaning with an impact.

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I would associate the phrase Flip-flop nation with the sort of poverty illustrated here...

Poverty in the Congo

...where it's implied that the entire nation is only shod in flip-flops, if that. I suppose that this depend on the understanding of flip-flop, which I take to be the rather fetching pink footwear at the bottom-left of the picture (as opposed to electronic devices or politicians).

Consequently the phrase is undesirable. You would be contrasting the affluence of those who can afford to visit far-flung places with the inhabitants of those countries.

(Image from What Shoes Gotta Do With It?, purely as an illustration, not a political statement)

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Andrew: Interesting, as one might just as easily associate the phrase with exotic luxury, particularly in a seaside setting. –  J.R. Oct 25 '12 at 9:21
    
Can you explain, puit into words, -why- such a picture is evocative of the term 'flip-flop'? It's not clear what connotation of flip-flop is here. –  Mitch Oct 25 '12 at 14:14
    
@Mitch cf. Answer by J.R. noun 1 a (english.stackexchange.com/a/88073/14666) –  Kris Oct 25 '12 at 15:40
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@Mitch Clarified. "Flip-flop nation" describes a nation of flip-flop wearers. –  Andrew Leach Oct 25 '12 at 16:15
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I'm having a hard time making the jump from flip flop to travel and multicultural experiences.

Perhaps to and fro carries the connotation that you're trying to convey?

From NOAD:

to and fro noun constant movement backward and forward
                                    • constant change in action, attitude, or focus.

Whereas for flip-flop:

flip-flop noun 1 a light sandal, typically of plastic or rubber, with a thong between the big and 2nd toe.
2 a backward somersault or handspring.
3 informal an abrupt reversal of policy : his flip-flop on taxes.
4 Electronics a switching circuit that works by changing from one stable state to another, or through an unstable state back to its stable state, in response to a triggering pulse.

verb [intrans.] 1 [with adverbial of direction] move with a flapping sound or motion : she flip-flopped off the porch in battered sneakers.
2 perform a backward somersault or handspring : [figurative] Julie's stomach flip-flopped.
3 [informal] make an abrupt reversal of policy : the candidate flip-flopped on a number of issues.

Then again, I don't know if To-and-Fro Nation would be catchy enough for your tastes. Also, to and fro can have negative connotations of its own; NOAD also says:

to and fro verb move constantly backward and forward
                                   • repeatedly discuss or think about something without making any progress.

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Flip-flops, as you probably know, are a kind of footwear worn without socks and of which one part passes between the big toe and the adjacent toe. The name comes from the way in which the sole oscillates between the ground and the sole of the foot. They are known in some places as thongs. Some British politicians have used the term to suggest the inconstancy of opponents. On the whole, it has connotations of triviality and is, I’d have thought, best avoided for any serious purpose.

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+1 for 'best avoided for any serious purpose.' –  Kris Oct 25 '12 at 15:41
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I'll agree with others that "flip-flop" probably does not convey the idea you want. Yes, if I heard "Flip-Flop Nation", my first thought would be, "country of people who change their minds constantly". Next thought would be "country of people who wear sandals". If told neither of these were correct, I might think of SF's definition and say "country where electronic logic circuits are fabricated".

Perhaps you need to clarify what you DO want to say. Are you trying to say "nation of people who travel a lot"? "Nation of people who know a lot about other cultures"? Literal phrases would be "Travelling Nation", "Well-travelled nation", "Wandering Nation", "Mobile Nation", "Culturally-Aware Nation", "Culturally-Sensitive Nation", "Global Nation", "Nation of World Learners", etc, though none of those are particularly clever or catchy and most or all are subject to alternative interpretations. I'm not sure if you consider "nation" an essential part of the phrase. Perhaps something more along the lines of "Global Travellers", "Culture Travellers", "International Awareness", etc etc.

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