Why not Ukrainegat­e, whistle­gate? We may be sick of suf­fix

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Global - Jonah En­gel Bromwich & Choire Sicha

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

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