Weekly Word Watch: hardened Democrats, watermelons, and sweat berets
Like Donald Trump, we received the briefing – DO NOT CONGRATULATE – but we just couldn’t resist. Well done, Waitrose. Your avocado-shaped chocolate Easter eggs are flying off the shelves. Yet your real accomplishment was resisting the urge to market the candy as a chococado, avochocolate, or some other blended concoction.
The question remains, though, Waitrose: will Virgin Trains accept your tastefully named Chocolate Avocado as an #avocard?
#Avocard was so last week’s Word Watch. On to this week’s words:
We had a good run, fellow Word Watchers, avoiding his vocabulary these past few weeks, but over the weekend President Trump tweeted another unlikely term into the public spotlight with his criticism of the ongoing investigation into his 2016 campaign:
Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2018
Political observers immediately pointed out that this use of hardened is very unusual, if not dangerous, because the adjective is typically collocated with criminals, thereby portraying any political opposition to him as lawless. Some of his political opponents, meanwhile, proudly embraced the epithet on social media and suggesting future electoral slogans, e.g., I’m a Hardened Democrat… and proud!
Hardened, of course, is derived from the verb harden, and the participle was first used in the 15th century for materials that had been physically hardened. The word soon lent itself to metaphor, as we find it for ‘unfeeling’ or ‘callous’ persons by the end of the 1400s. Trump’s hardened, used of irreformably bad actors, emerges by the 1600s (e.g. hardened sinner), but his odd application of the word to a political party now adds, for better or worse, to the long legacy of the word.
A professor sparked outrage this week among young women studying at a college in Kerala, India – and may have sparked a powerful new feminist symbol in the subcontinent.
In a recording, Professor Munavvir T lambasted young Muslim women at his school for, in his eyes, improperly wearing their hijab, exposing their chests to men like ‘slices of watermelons on display’. The students were not having it, and – just like the Democrats who turned the table on ‘hardened’– took to a proud tradition of the maligned: they reclaimed the insult.
The young women led what English-language media in India widely called a ‘watermelon march’ outside the college, brandishing slices of watermelon as they demanded action against the professor and treatment as persons, not sexual objects. The protest received a fair amount of attention in the West, too, where melons have long been derogatory slang terms for breasts. Some tweeters even used the Watermelon emoji 🍉 when remarking on the event:
Indian teacher says Muslim girls aren’t wearing the hijab properly and exposing their breasts like melons – sparks ‘watermelon protest’ 🍉 https://t.co/BUg0JoLnXT
— Natasha Fatah (@NatashaFatah) March 22, 2018
With the global #MeToo movement further fuelling feminist activism in India, it will be interesting to see if watermelon or its native-language equivalents – whether in word or emoji form – becomes an enduring feminist byword in India, if not abroad.
Fashion, like language, is restless – and this week, they joined forces.
According to the sartorial powers that be, berets are all the rage. Japanese clothing brand Beams have made note, apparently, and made an innovation: the sweat beret. Beams partnered with US sportswear company Champion to design a beret made of heavy-knit cotton and even featuring an adjustable drawstring.
＜Champion＞×＜BEAMS BOY＞ Womens Sweat Beret Special BEAMS JAPAN 3F @beams_japan #champion #beams #beamsboy #beamsjapan #beamsjapan3rd Instagram for New Arrivals Blog for Recommended Items #japan #tokyo #shinjuku #fashion #mensfashion #womensfashion #日本 #東京 #新宿 #ファッション#メンズファッション #ウィメンズファッション #ビームス #ビームスジャパン
The sweat beret comes in two colours, blue and grey. But will it come in two dialects: sweat beret for North American English speakers and tracksuit beret for the rest of the English-speaking world?
We think it will take a lot of sales, however, before sweat beret joins its other American English counterparts in the dictionary: sweatshirt (attested in 1929), sweatband (1956), and sweatpants (1957).
Now, we challenge the much-memed Marvel this week with the ‘most ambitious crossover in history’… of Weekly Word Watches. A few lexical items we highlighted in previous blog posts notably resurfaced in the headlines this week. Let’s check in on them to see how they’re faring:
Last October, we were watching centrist dad, an insult used by supporters of UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn for middle-aged men failing to keep up with changing political times.
In our discussion of centrist dad, we noted this dad calls up the growing colloquial use of dad as an adjective for something lovably dorky, such as something goofy, clueless dads apparently enjoy: dadrock, dad jeans, dad jokes, and dad bod.
The latest member of the dad family is the dad sneaker or dad trainer. The term for the casual footwear may not cross the pond, but the use of dad certainly does, here characterizing clunky, chunky, clumpy trainers, often in plain white or ‘90s-styled colours.
Luxury brand Balenciaga’s popular £595 ‘Triple S’ dad trainers brought the trend (fashion-wise and word-wise) to the fore late last year, but it is definitely continuing as Topshop releases a £38 pair to the masses. The popularity of the footwear may not be long for the shelves, but adjectival dad is getting a lot of walking.
In January this year, we noted Day Zero, the ominous term for the day Cape Town, South Africa is expected to run out of water due to drought, now pushed back to July.
This week, New Delhi’s Center for Science and Environment, a research and advocacy group, published findings concluding 10 major world cities, including India’s own Bengaluru, are facing looming water shortages. And how did it describe their situations? Like Cape Town, they are careening towards Day Zero.
The Indian press picked up Day Zero for Bengaluru, and we’ll keep watch to see if it becomes a go-to term for ‘the day an inhabited area runs out of water’ or for a ‘water crisis’ more generally.
Forecasters are predicting cold temperatures and snow into Easter for the UK. And right on the heels of the Beast from the East, whose name opened our first Weekly Word Watch this month, is what the UK media are calling the Mini Beast from the East.
The name surely has some schoolchildren confused, though, as minibeasts have been a name for insects, spiders, and other creepy-crawlies in some primary school curricula in the UK since the 1970s. Snow flurries seem rather benign now, eh?