Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope

(The Root)—It was bound to happen eventually.

After two-and-a-half seasons of melodramatic conquests, the natives out there in TV land have been sufficiently immersed in Scandal-ese. Fans of the hit show have relished in having their own shorthand—simple phrases like “It’s handled” and “gladiators in suits,” to name a few—an instantly recognizable patois that sets them apart from other diehards like Grey’s Anatomy fanatics, or even, gasp, Gleeks.


But last week’s episode, “More Cattle, Less Bull,” took a risk when it broke the fourth wall in AP Scandal class.

“We got Poped, sir,” whined one of the White House’s minions after his plot to expose the scandalous life of one of Washington’s elite was thwarted by the white-hat-wearing team of Olivia Pope and Associates. In that meta moment, the show gave its loyalists a wink, nod, elbow and slap on the back all at once. It’s as if the writers knew how badly we needed more vocab words for the next “You Know You’re a Scandal Fan When” pop quiz.

The first time I used “Pope” in a sentence was last summer at my best friend’s wedding. After lowering the wedding gown over her head, lacing up the corset in the back and smoothing out the ruching at her waist, my friend took a look at herself in the mirror. And that’s when we all saw it.

“OhmyGod. What the heck is that!” There was a thumb-sized smudge of makeup right on the front of her otherwise sparkling white gown. I had to think fast before the waterworks started. Acting on instinct and too many mimosas, I immediately pulled and tucked an extra stretch of fabric to hide the offending spot. Also by instinct I shouted, “I just Poped that!” Everybody laughed and had another round.


Basically “to Pope” means to be on the right side of awesome; to “get Poped” is to be on the wrong side, the losing side. Since the beginning, Scandal fans have known that the show’s main character, Olivia Pope, is worthy of dictionary status.

My friend Danielle is waiting for the right moment to let someone know they just got Poped. “What does it mean? You have been beyond outdone.” Another friend, Christiana, is also biding her time.


“There hasn't been a worthy occasion yet! In my mind ‘to Pope something’ is to salvage an otherwise disastrous situation to ensure a favorable outcome for all involved, while looking effortlessly fabulous,” explained Christiana.

I even have a friend in politics who has had face-time with the real-life Olivia Pope, crisis-management expert Judy Smith. My friend said “Pope” is a high-class synonym for the more low-brow “get ‘er done.” Fixed, handled and taken care of, all wrapped into one.


Whether the folks behind Merriam-Webster are tuning in on Thursday nights remains to be seen. For now the official definition has to do with the man in the really big white hat who runs that really big church. But if the cult followers of Scandal—including Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton—have their way with words, “Pope” might be more than just pop culture colloquialism.

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.


Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

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