5 Watergate Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

  • Richard Nixon in 1973
Richard Nixon in 1973
Photo credit: Bettmann / Bettman via Getty Images

It’s nearly impossible to live in the United States without learning quite a bit about the infamous Watergate scandal. You probably know that Watergate is the name of a Washington, D.C., hotel, that a politically motivated burglary there led to the first presidential resignation in American history, and that it’s the scandal that caused the suffix “-gate” to be attached to the end of just about every controversy in politics, sports, or pop culture since. But the Watergate story has so many layers and strangely fascinating details, there is always more to uncover, even for those of us who remember the events unfolding in the early 1970s. Here are a few facts you might not know about one of the most surreal episodes in U.S. political history.

Photo credit: Bettmann / Bettmann via Getty Images

The Slang Term “Big Enchilada” Was Popularized By Watergate

John Ehrlichman, President Richard Nixon’s chief domestic affairs adviser, popularized so many catchphrases, he could have been a pro wrestler. One of these was “the big enchilada,” which he used to refer to U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell. Ehrlichman was caught on tape expressing his hope that Mitchell, as a big name and political heavyweight, could take the blame for Watergate and get the heat off of everyone else. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary now defines “the big enchilada” as a phrase meaning “the most important issue, person, etc.” The Watergate scandal and ensuing trial also popularized the terms “cover-up,” “deep-six,” and “smoking gun,” the latter of which was used to describe the tape Nixon made that reveals he ordered the FBI to stop investigating the break-in.

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