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BOMFOG, or brotherhood of man, fatherhood of God, from "The New Language of Politics," by William Safire

2013-03-29 9:23 AM | Daniel

From The New Language of Politics, by William Safire, Random House, 1968


A high-sounding, glittering generality.

The Word comes from reporters’ shorthand covering Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s speeches in his 1964 campaign against Barry Goldwater in the New Hampshire primary, which resulted in an upset victory in New Hampshire for Henry Cabot Lodge.

Nancy Shea, of Governor Rockefeller’s staff, informs the author:

Bomfog was originated by Hy Sheffer who as at one time the Governor’s stenotypist. Hy told me he started using it in the late 1959-60 national effort. Since the Governor used the phrase “the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God,” so often, Hy began to simplify it on the stenotype machine. Bomfog took only two strokes on the machine compared to several more strokes for the whole phrase. The reporters traveling with the Governor’s party picked it up and made it famous.

“Brotherhood of man, fatherhood of God.” is part of the Rockefeller family credo, a speech by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., etched in marble near the statue of Prometheus in New York’s Rockefeller Center: “These are the principles upon which alone a new world recognizing the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God can be established.”

The initials had an appeal as a political word because it seemed to combine “bombast” with “fog,” or amorphous oratory. So fat, its use has been limited to critics of Nelson Rockefeller.

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