Weekly Word Watch: Catalexit, centrist dad, and Double Down
Iberian independence, political punching bags, and deep-fried decadence? It’s time for another Weekly Word Watch. Here are the terms that topped our lexical timelines this week:
Nearly 90% of those who cast a ballot voted in favour of Catalonia’s independence from Spain this past Sunday, which saw state police violence at polling stations across the region. Now, the country faces a constitutional crisis over what some have dubbed – in that political portmanteau of the moment – Catalexit, or the exit of Catalonia from Spain.
Catalexit, of course, is modeled after Brexit, the British withdrawal from the European Union voted ahead in 2016. This blend, based on the slightly earlier Grexit, is first found in 2012 – though the terms of the UK split are still under tense negotiations. One thing is for certain: -exit, as a new and productive combining form for a ‘sudden political departure’, is here to stay.
It’s already gone through the full life-cycle of the modern meme: centrist dad.
A centrist dad, which emerged in the past several weeks on Twitter as an insult among supporters of Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, refers to ‘middle-aged men who cannot come to terms with the world and politics changing’, as former Corbyn spokesman Matt Zarb-Cousin put it for the BBC. They are called centrist because they are frustrated by Labour and Tory alike and dads due to their middle age, and their critics often mock them as bitter, condescending, denialist mansplainers, all packaged in the uncool blandness of a generic father.
The internet, of course, immediately had fun with its new lexical toy, centrist dad:
Centrist Dad: Takes child to feed the ducks.
Tory dad: Takes child duck-shooting
Socialist dad: Takes child to “Solidarity with Ducks” rally
— Jack Staples-Butler (@jstaplesbutler) September 29, 2017
Are you a centrist dad? Take our definitive quiz to find out pic.twitter.com/dOHwJt80NG
— #NationaliseGreggs (@nationalgreggs) September 29, 2017
Dad wordplay will continue, but it seems the phrase centrist dad has had his 15 minutes of internet fame.
To the delight of many munchers, fast-food chain KFC will be selling its wildly popular sandwich, called the Double Down, for the first time in the UK next Monday. In lieu of bread, the Double Down serves up bacon, cheese, and barbecue sauce between two of its ‘original recipe’ chicken fillets. Yes, the bread is the chicken.
Double Down – 09.10.17
Double Down – 09.10.17 pic.twitter.com/f8aqpdMNuY
— KFC UK & Ireland (@KFC_UKI) October 2, 2017
The sandwich both literally doubles down on its servings of fried fowl and figuratively doubles down by taking a big risk with its culinary outrageousness. The risk has paid off, though, as the sandwich’s past success – and ravenous anticipation in the UK – shows.
The particular phrase double down, first evidenced in 1949, originates in the card game blackjack, where a player doubles a bet after seeing the initial cards have flipped on the table. In 2012, American lexicographer Ben Zimmer noted double down’s spread for a ‘high-risk strategy’ in politics and technology. Doctors in 2017, for their part, might also be keeping an eye on the spread of Double Down as a ‘high-risk strategy’ in health and nutrition.
Starting this week, you might see a new label on commercial photographs of models in French publications: photographie retouchée, or ‘touched-up photograph’. That’s because a new French law is requiring images of models that have been digitally altered to say as much. As former Minister of Health, Marisol Touraine, who initiated the legislation, explains: ‘It is necessary to act on body image in society to avoid the promotion of inaccessible beauty ideals and prevent anorexia among young people’. Touché, Touraine: over 600,000 people in the France are indeed affected by eating disorders like anorexia.
Now, if only we could get a label in other publications warning us of les informations retouchées — fake news, perhaps?
This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded on Tuesday to three US physicists for their efforts in discovering gravitational waves at their Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). As LIGO defines them: ‘Gravitational waves are ‘ripples’ in the fabric of space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the universe,’ such as the collision of black holes or the collapse of stars.
In a breakthrough moment for our knowledge of the cosmos, LIGO first detected these waves – these infinitesimal distortions in space-time – in 2015. Albert Einstein, however, had predicted their existence nearly 100 years prior as part of his 1916 general theory of relativity. The success of LIGO technology promises scientists a new, powerful tool to study ever more remote reaches of the universe, such as the remnant reverberations of a little something called, oh, the Big Bang.
On Friday 29 September, a stampede claimed over 20 lives at a busy train station in Mumbai, India as commuters crowded an overbridge during heavy rains. As a survivor told investigators this Tuesday, though, a simple misunderstanding may have set off a panic that erupted into the rush. The survivor, 19-year-old Shilpa Vishwakarma, said she saw a flower-seller slip on stairs and say, ‘Phool gir gaya’, or ‘The flower has fallen’, in Hindi and Marathi.
But some commuters, she went on, heard something very different. Well, some very similar-sounding: ‘Pul gir gaya’, or ‘The bridge has fallen’. The phonetic differences between phool and pul – even as these rough transliterations suggest – are indeed subtle. But, in a crowded public space, they’ve apparently proved deadly.