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Another New Word(第21回)

#21. Another New Word

Jayna Tokie Tanaka

     My sister is semi-retired, and she now lives in temporary housing in a small town in Colorado. “Semi-retired” means that she works when she feels like it and when people ask her for help. She’s a massage therapist and does shiatsu according to the Namikoshi method. She also teaches beginners golf, which has been her lifelong hobby. These two professions make for a strange homepage advertising her services, but that does not seem to bother her clients. However, this essay is not about my sister but about a word that has been in the news lately. The reason I mentioned my sister is because she is the one who taught it to me. She recently moved from Las Vegas to Colorado, where she plans to build a house and live out her days. She and her son, who remains in Las Vegas, bought an older apartment in the city in order to refurbish it so that my nephew can live in it and rent out a bedroom for short-stay visitors on Airbnb. Anyway, she asked our cousin’s son to do the refurbishing work, and because the apartment started to look so good, one day he said, “Hey, why don’t you flip this place.” “Flip?” What does that mean? It happens to be what people in the U.S. do all the time with houses and apartments. It also happens to be what a former prominent Trump campaign chairman did recently. Last, but not least, it means what the Democrats had hoped to do in the 2018 midterm elections.

     It seems that flipping happens all the time in the real estate business. The idea is that people usually want to buy a property that is ready to move into. They don’t want to go to the trouble of renovating an older house even if the price is very reasonable. That is where the flippers come in. They buy older, run-down apartments or houses, fix them up, and then sell them for a profit. It is legal in the U.S. to buy property from “wholesalers,” who actually deal in large volumes of property to sell to flippers. When real estate prices are rising, this activity can be very profitable for all involved. All parties want the property to be fixed quickly and sold quickly to take advantage of the market. (In Japan, it seems, the process of buying and selling takes much longer and is not conducive to flipping.) Of course, my sister was not really interested in flipping the apartment she had bought. She just wanted a place for her son to live because she had decided to leave Nevada. She’s still waiting for her Colorado house to be started. It seems it takes a lot longer to build a house than to flip it in the U.S.

     A court case in Washington, D.C. involving former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort illustrates another meaning for flip now popular in the news. In July of this year, he went on trial for several crimes, including bank and tax fraud. He pleaded not guilty and was convicted of these crimes. However, when he was brought to trial again in September for other crimes including money laundering, failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, and making false statements to investigators, he agreed to flip, to change his story 100%. In other words, to lighten his sentence, he agreed to plead guilty to some of the charges. In such cases, the other charges are usually dropped, and the defendant agrees to “cooperate” with the prosecutors. This means, that he will have to give information about others associated with him in his crimes. The big story was that by flipping, he might talk to the prosecutors about what exactly the relations between President Trump and the Russians were during the 2016 presidential election. There will surely be more to this story in the coming months.

     Finally, the word flip appears almost daily in the newspapers because it is being used for the very important midterm elections which took place on November 6. Since the U.S. Congress is now controlled by Republican majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives, the goal for the Democrats in this election was to flip the Republican seats. In a few very close Senate elections, polls indicated that the Democrats did have a chance to flip the seats in their direction. As for the House of Representatives, most polls gave the Democrats wide margins to flip quite a number of seats. The Democrats also wanted to flip several governorships. The most famous Senate race was between Ted Cruz, the former Republican candidate for president, and Beto O’Rourke, a member of the House. Although Mr. O’Rourke failed to flip this seat, the race was very, very close. The polls were right for the House of Representatives, where the Democrats flipped enough seats to become the majority party.  Another closely watched race was for the governorship of Florida where the Republican candidate is Ron DeSantis, a former House member, and the Democratic candidate is Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, Florida. If elected Mr. Gillum would be the first African American governor of Florida. Why are these gentlemen still candidates? It is because, as of today, November 14, the votes are still being recounted, so there is still a chance this race may result in a flip.

     Why is the word flip so popular for various kinds of activities? Who knows? Maybe it is easy to say. Also, note that you can also flip channels on a tv, flip the lights off, flip the pages of a book, and flip pancakes. Perhaps there will be another meaning added soon to this very versatile word.


Jayna Tokie Tanaka(ジェイナ・トキエ・タナカ)


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