‘-Gate’: Notes on a Scandal

The Watergate Scandal

The use of the suffix –gate following a relevant word to refer to scandals (such as Irangate, or more recently, Bridgegate) has long been a media trope. Most people are already aware of the origin: Watergate, the shorthand used for the scandal in which the offices of the Democratic National Committee were burglarized, with an investigation later revealing that the burglary was covered up by high-level officials in the administration of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon. The name Watergate refers to the name of the office complex, located in the Foggy Bottom district of Washington, D.C., consisting of office buildings, apartments, and the Watergate Hotel.

That scandal ultimately led to Nixon resigning from the presidency in August 1974. But by then, Watergate was itself used for scandals likened to Watergate for their levels of concealment and corruption:

“Why obviously?” “Jesus, Doctor!” He was momentarily indignant. “What sort of a question is that? A Central American Watergate you want now?” “I only asked.”
— Eric Ambler, Doctor Frigo, 1974

Usage After Watergate

By the time of Nixon’s resignation, the use of –gate as a somewhat mocking way to suffix the names of scandals (political or otherwise) had already taken hold in the American media and continued throughout the decade.

Last week the French wine industry was in ferment over the disclosure of a fraudulent scheme to peddle cheap wine as expensive Bordeaux … “You’ll think it’s exaggerating to say this, but the U.S. had Watergate and now we have our winegate,” a Bordeaux journalist told Newsweek’s Seth Goldschlager.
— Newsweek, 10 Sept. 1973

The suspects allegedly falsified records, fed incriminating evidence through a paper shredder and conducted a cover-up so pervasive that one investigator calls it “Ice Cream Gate.”
— Time, 18 Aug. 1975

Since obscenity is known to be the most low-investment-high-return of all businesses, there should be an investigation to ascertain whether payoffs are blocking enforcement of the law. May we have a burlesk-gate on our hands.
— The Pueblo Star-Journal, 17 May 1979

Some instances of the –gate suffix led to serendipitously punny phrasings that were likely too juicy for a writer to pass up.

For example, appending –gate to the last name of Daniel J. Flood, a long-serving U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania, yielded Floodgate when accusations surfaced in 1978 that he used his office to direct money and contracts to favored people and corporations in exchange for kickbacks.

In the 1980s, a scandal involving sexual misconduct and misappropriation of funds by the televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker led to New York Times columnist Russel Baker to coin the name PearlyGate, cleverly echoing the phrase pearly gates, envisioned as the place where one earns entrance to Heaven as described in Revelation 21:21.

Modern ‘-Gate’ Scandals

The –gate suffix has continued to be applied to more recent scandals, generations after its originator, seemingly with the paradoxical effect of simultaneously magnifying and diminishing the affair in question.

Bridgegate was the name for what was known more descriptively as the Fort Lee Lane Closure Scandal, in which lanes at the toll plaza on the upper level of the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey were closed by members of the administration of New Jersey governor Chris Christie purportedly as an act of retribution against Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich.

When New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was accused of using underinflated footballs during the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in January 2015—a violation that ultimately resulted in Brady receiving a four-game suspension the following season—the scandal became known in the media as Deflategate.

And there are dozens of others, before and after and in between: Nipplegate (in which Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed during the Super Bowl halftime show); Skategate (a judging scandal regarding the pairs’ figure skating event at the 2002 Winter Olympics); and Spygate (another scandal involving the New England Patriots, accused of using video equipment to record the signals used by their opponents).

For every scandal, it seems, there will always be a gate. Remember to close it on your way out.

To read the article in full, please visit the website: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/gate-suffix-scandal-word-history

Pieces of cake and sour grapes: food idioms

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

Angela Bax / Moment / Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

This week, we’re looking at English idioms that feature food and drink words. As there are lots of these idioms, we’re focusing today on idioms containing words for sweet food. Next month, we’ll publish a post on savoury (UK) or savory (US) food idioms.

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Scots is one of the three indigenous languages in Scotland, along with English and Scottish Gaelic.

English is spoken throughout the country, Gaelic is mostly spoken in the Highlands and the Western Isles and Scots is spoken all through the Lowlands, the Scottish cities and in the Northern Isles.

Scots has often been mistaken for slang, and it is not widely known as a language in its own right or that it is of Anglo-Saxon origin.

The reality is that Scots has some 60,000 unique words and expressions.

There are many varieties of Scots and some of these have names of their own, like the Doric, used in the north-east. Some others are known as dialects, like the spoken languages in Caithness, Orkney or Shetland, or even the varieties spoken in the cities of Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh.

Scots has its own history, a wide variety of unique grammatical features, a huge store of idiomatic expressions and a number of sounds that are never used in English. For these reasons, many linguists and academics today agree that Scots is a language in its own right.

Scots has finally achieved official recognition as a minority language by the European Commission for Regional and Minority languages, and it is accorded special protection by the UK and Scottish Governments. It was even included in the 2011 census, which showed that 1.5 million people identified themselves as speaking or understanding Scots. This only shows that the language is alive and well in the first Century.


Scots Tongue. http://www.cs.stir.ac.uk/~kjt/general/scots.html. Accessed August 6, 2019.

Aberdeen Uof. North-East Scots (Doric): The History, Present & Future (Complete Video). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oH8pxfqgSBQ. Published February 13, 2019. Accessed August 6, 2019.

AMC’s FITS Project produces video on the origins of the Scots language. Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics. http://www.amc.lel.ed.ac.uk/?p=2030. Accessed August 6, 2019.

Languages. Scottish Government. https://www.gov.scot/policies/languages/scots/. Accessed August 6, 2019.

Mapping Sounds to Spellings. From Inglis to Scots. http://www.amc.lel.ed.ac.uk/fits/. Accessed August 6, 2019.

Written by Maria Blanca Escudero Fontan, trainee in the Direction of the Directorate B and in TermCoord. Holds a Degree in Translation and Interpretation ( Universidade de Vigo) and a MA in International Studies (USC).

The ball’s in your court now: idioms with ‘ball’

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

Wachira Khurimon / EyeEm / Getty Images

by Liz Walter

There are a surprising number of idioms that contain the word ‘ball’. This post looks at some of the most useful ones.

It seems appropriate to start with the idiom get/start the ball rolling, which means to do something to make an activity start or to encourage other people to do something similar to you:

I’m hoping we can all share our ideas today. Who would like to start the ball rolling?

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How to ‘Zhuzh’ Up Your Vocabulary

Kick it up a notch.

In February 2018, Netflix launched a reboot of Queer Eye, the former Bravo series in which five gay men perform a makeover of a fellow needing help in the areas of fashion, grooming, living space, food, and social grace. The original series aired from 2003 to 2007 and made stars of its “Fab Five,” while bringing the term metrosexual into the lexicon from its use by critics.

Another term that the show brought into the fold was one that didn’t initially see a lot of print use, possibly because editors didn’t know how to spell it: zhuzh, or zhoosh, or tzhuj. (The first two seem to have gained the most traction.)

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In general use, ‘zhuzh’ tends to mean “to improve in appearance by way of a slight adjustment.”

A go-to word for Queer Eye’s original fashion guru, Carson Kressley, zhuzh describes the act of making slight improvements or accents to a wardrobe or look (such as by adding a pocket square, teasing one’s hair, or popping a shirt collar).

So many women were coming up to me asking, “How do I look?” or “Can you just zhuzh me?” or “What should I wear?” And I’d say, “Well, I’m trying to pay for my ice cream right now, but I can give you a couple quick tips.” 
— Carson Kressley, in Main Line Today, 5 Apr. 2017

The new Queer Eye team doesn’t use the term so much, but those who remember the old show fondly still do, both as a noun and a verb (sometimes with up). In general use, the word has transcended fashion to mean something along the lines of “a slight improvement or adjustment” or “to improve in appearance by way of a slight adjustment”:

The reboot is fine company in several contexts, for instance, when it is lending ambient zhuzh to your home while you’re picking up around the place. Half-watching any of its eight episodes, the viewer feels its aspirational anima infuse the room. 
— Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, 26 Feb. 2018

Recently, we told you about seven easy under-$20 ways to upgrade your space, and now, we’re turning our attention to easy décor improvements. Fiona Byrne, an editor turned interior decorator who recently zhuzhed up spaces for Montauk’s Surf Lodge, tells us her eight favorite ways to kick up an apartment. 
— New York Magazine, 31 Oct. 2017

Summer is the season of laid-back hairstyles that need nothing more than a spritz of salt spray and a maybe a quick zhuzh before heading out the door. 
— Samantha Sasso, Refinery29, 5 Dec. 2017

Fellow celebrity hairstylist Chad Wood recently mentioned he loves to use pomade to zhuzh up second-day curls, and if it can give Bellisario results, pomade is firmly on the shopping list. 
— Rachel Nussbaum, Glamour, 20 July 2017

Fallon and his writers’ greatest innovation to the format was to zhuzh up the guest segments into participatory “games” — like the absurdist physical-comedy bits from Late Night With David Letterman, but with their underlying sense of subversion surgically removed. 
— Alison Herman, The Ringer, 12 Feb. 2018

Pronounced \ZHOOZH (with the “OO” as in “good”)\, zhuzh sounds onomatopoetic, with a resemblance to other sound-effect words, such as whoosh or zoom, that suggest dynamic movement, or perhaps more appropriately, a ruffling of hair or fabric. Some attribute the word to Polari, a kind of slang used in the British underground performing arts as well as the gay subculture; the OED cites use (with the spelling zhoosh) that dates to 1977.

Kressley told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2004 that he learned the term while working for the clothing designer Ralph Lauren.

Only time will tell if zhuzh establishes itself enough to officially add an accent to our famously unkempt language. We’ll keep taking citations, though it may take more than a slight ruffle to make English presentable for polite society.

Words We’re Watching talks about words we are increasingly seeing in use but that have not yet met ourcriteria for entry.

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/zhuzh-zhoosh-queer-eye-origin-kressley

Are You Using Hyphens Correctly?

By Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl June 13, 2019

Ages are like every other compound modifier: you hyphenate them before the noun but not after the noun.

A lot of people get confused about when to use hyphens when writing ages, and I think it’s because sometimes an age is a noun, sometimes an age is an adjective that comes before a noun and modifies it, and sometimes an age is an adjective that comes after a noun.

When to Hyphenate Ages

First we’ll talk about when you do hyphenate an age: You do it when the age is acting like a noun and when the age is an adjective that comes before the noun and modifies the noun.

In this example, the age—70-year-old—is used as a noun, and you hyphenate it:

  • That 70-year-old with a purple hoodie loves Justin Bieber.

Just as you’d say, “That woman with the purple hoodie loves Justin Bieber,” with “woman” as the noun, the age—70-year-old—can take the place of “woman.” When an age is a noun like that, you hyphenate it.

Here’s an example of an age that comes before the noun it modifies. You hyphenate here too:

  • My 8-year-old neighbor wrote a poem about commas for National Grammar Day.

In that example, “8-year-old” is an adjective that describes the noun, “neighbor.” 

When to Not Hyphenate Ages

Now we’ll move on to when you don’t hyphenate ages: When the age is part of an adjective phrase after the noun, you don’t hyphenate it. For example,

  • Beyoncé is 37 years old.
  • John’s twin sons are nearly 2 years old.

Neither of those ages are hyphenated.


So to sum up, you hyphenate an age when it’s a noun or when it’s a modifier that comes before a noun. 

The main time you don’t hyphenate an age is when it comes after the noun it modifies. 

Ages are like every other compound modifier that way: you hyphenate them before the noun but not after the noun.

[Note: Chicago style and AP style differ when it comes to ages. Chicago style is to use the word for ages 100 and lower, and AP style is to always use the numeral for ages. Our site uses a modified version of AP style, which is why the example reads “8-year-old” instead of “eight-year-old.”]

Source: https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/are-you-using-hyphens-correctly?e=408fc45b78c80915cef96cf1e1de28a554952813404070dd60ebb6955e828ea0