Drinking the Kool-Aid: An Introduction


On January 19, 2009 – the day before the inauguration of Barack Obama – Rush Limbaugh warned that the nation was about to drink the Kool-Aid during the next four years. The transcript of Mr. Limbaugh’s remarks appear here.

It was not the first time a commentator had used the Kool-Aid analogy with Mr. Obama – and, in the year to come, with (mainly) conservative outrage over Mr. Obama’s proposals on health care reform, global warming, and the national economy, there would be hundreds to follow – but it was the most extensive.

The fact is, the expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” is now deeply embedded into American slang. While its origins are painfully understood by most of the people who visit this site, it’s also true that no one knows when or in what context it first entered our slang lexicon. As time passes, two other characteristics of slang will occur: its earliest meaning will morph into a multitude of derivatives – indeed, that has already begun to happen – and fewer and fewer people who use it will know where it came from.

This website has a collection of articles and reflections on “Kool-Aid” as an image and as an expression, but the purpose of the listing here is to show how and where the expression is used in American newspapers and publications, organizational and media websites, and established blogs within the last year. The listing is broken down into uses of “drinking the Kool-Aid” in American business (which is believed to have coined the term), in politics, in sports, and in general American culture. The listing concludes with a few efforts by writers or bloggers to explain what the origin of the phrase is, and what care people should take in using it.