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I found the following caption and lead copy in today's New York Times. Does 'jolt into civility' mean 'get calmed down quickly," "resume normality soon after the incident"? Is "jolt into" civility, normalty, composure, recovery, whatever, a frequently-used phrase?

After Tucson, Is the Anger Gone? In the past, the nation has been "jolted into civility." But it's unclear whether this will happen after the killings in Tucson.

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After Tucson, Is the Anger Gone? – Sid Jan 17 '11 at 0:54
up vote 2 down vote accepted

"Jolt into civility" here means to shock the purveyors of rancorous political discourse so much that they decide to abandon the hostility for a new spirit of public politeness.

When you probe around in an electrical outlet with a screwdriver, you are likely to get a jolt of electricity. Such a shock might convince you not to go poking screwdrivers into outlets. Your attitude toward such reckless exploration would probably be softened quite a bit, and you would be less reckless in the future. Experience keeps an expensive school, the saying goes, but a fool will learn in no other.

Too bad some people don't even learn from experience. The point of the article is that, far from having a chastening effect on those who spout angry or hateful political rhetoric, the murders in Tucson have in fact caused the ranters to spew more vitriol, louder and faster than before.

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So, by combining iamsid's and Robusto's input, can I paraphrase 'Jolt into cibility' as "shaken down (compeled) to assume civility" or "taught to keep (resume) civility by a shoking lesson (like Tuscon hooting spree)? - Yoichi – Yoichi Oishi Jan 17 '11 at 7:15

"For anyone who hoped that the tragedy in Tucson might jolt the political class into some new period of civility and reflection, suddenly subduing all the radio ranters and acid bloggers, the days that followed brought a cold reality." - After Tucson, Is the Anger Gone?, Matt Bai, The New York Times, January 15, 2011.

Jolt [verb]: Disturb (someone's) composure.
Civility [noun]: The act of showing regard for others; being polite.

"Jolt (the political class...) into civility" is journalese that means "force (the political class...) to be (uncharacteristically) polite and have regard for others."

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iasmid. By saying this expression (meaning 'forced into civility) is a "journalese," you mean it's not plain (American) English? - Yoichi – Yoichi Oishi Jan 17 '11 at 1:24
@Yoichi Oishi: Yes, "journalese" is a style of (formal) language used by newspapers; it is not plain English. – Sid Jan 17 '11 at 1:29
@Yoichi Oishi: The concept of "plain English" is tricky, as English is full of phrases. A suitable analogy for the use of "jolt" being employed above would be "a wake-up call" or "sudden realisation/change", that is the event suddenly made them change, in this case to behaving more civilly. – Orbling Jan 17 '11 at 2:31

To "jolt" in this context, is to shock.

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