Why not Ukrainegate, whistlegate? We may be sick of suffix
For the last few decades, we’ve appended the suffix “gate” to basically any scandal, mostly political, but not exclusively — Donutgate, Nipplegate, Gamergate. The names seemed to write themselves. But no “gate” has emerged out of the gate to describe the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
The late night talk show hosts are struggling. John Oliver of “Last Week Tonight” coined an early phrase in 2017 — “Stupid Watergate” — that he thought described the president and Russia’s influence in the US election.
But, in more recent developments, others haven’t ventured a name. “There’s a new thing, and it might be the thing,” Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he aired almost 11 minutes of very detailed explanation of the events that preceded Nancy Pelosi’s announcement. What he did not include was a shorthand for those events.
So no one dares to call this moment… Ukrainegate? Whistlegate? The possibilities lack the euphony, sparkle and accuracy of their predecessors. We also might just be sick of the suffix.
The suffix “gate,” of course, came from the scandal that the public learned of thanks to the burglary of the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate building in 1972. The name of the hotel came to stand in for the scandal itself. The “gate” was shorn from the rest of the word and came to be used as a suffix that meant “scandal.”
Now, even the linguists are tired of it. Brian Joseph, a professor of linguistics at the Ohio State University who has tracked the “gate” suffix across different languages including Greek, German and Serbo-Croatian, compared it to a pair of once-fashionable ripped jeans. “There are so many holes you can put in a pair of jeans before they become useless,” Joseph said.
“If the only issue were Ukraine, it might be Ukrainegate,” Joseph said. “It’s not very creative. But if there’s Ukraine and a whole bunch of other things, it might be that there’s no single label of ‘gate’ that would work for that.” Partisanship, also, might require that there be two publicly intelligible names. Even in news media, it is likely that a shorthand’s use may be split among cable network lines.
No ‘gate’ has emerged out of the gate to describe the impeachment inquiry against Trump