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How scandals are helping new words grow

This Monday past, US Congressman Anthony Weiner held a press conference at which he announced that he had engaged in activities that are unlikely to assist him in furthering any political ambitions he may have. Specifically, he admitted to sending risqué photographs of himself to a number of women, some via Twitter and some via his cellular phone. This is a scandal that is ripe with the potential for helping new words grow.

Suddenly, a group of words that have either just recently been added to dictionaries (such as sexting, Twitterspheretweeted) are getting considerably more exposure in media, making it more likely that they will have a prolonged life. And a number of words that have not yet been added to most mainstream dictionaries, such as ‘Twitterverse’, are also suddenly appearing in publications such as the NY Times, making it more likely that they will one day find themselves in a dictionary. This is a great way for new words to become established, hitchhiking on the back of a scandal. Usage is like oxygen to a word – it helps it grow and thrive.

To be balanced, some members of the media are still insisting on retaining that particularly respected and well-worn scandal suffix –gate, and refer to this whole brouhaha as ‘Weinergate’, although it remains to be seen whether that particular variant has any staying power.

And despite recent reports that the French government has banned the use of the words Facebook and Twitter on TV and radio, they will still be able to follow this story – the words are allowed to be used so long as they are part of the news story

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