When is a nominee a nominee? Sounds like the kind of question philosophy grad students could spend hours chewing over (along the lines of chestnuts like ‘what is truth?’ and ‘is there a God?’), but this conundrum has a bit more practical an application.

Turns out that although President Obama stood in the East Room of the White House and proudly declared former senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to be his nominee for secretary of defense — and a few weeks before that, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as his secretary of state — neither man can properly be called a “nominee.” That’s because a nominee isn’t actually a nominee until the president sends official nomination papers (really serious stuff, too — we’re talking heavy, old-fashioned parchment paper in an envelope with a wax seal!) to the Senate.

Oh, the Senate isn’t in session, you say? Well, that shouldn’t hamper the process. After all, it’s not like the White House messenger would just leave a note on the closed chamber door like the UPS man delivering a package. The secretary of the senate has the power to receive messages when the body is not in session.

And so far, the old-school parchment hasn’t arrived. Not that that’s stopping everyone (including the Loop) from using the “nominee” nomenclature to describe Kerry and Hagel. It seems that’s a colloquial term.

But until it’s officially official, perhaps should we call them “presumptive nominees”? Maybe “nominees in waiting”? “Pre-noms?”