Stocks plunged. Political parties imploded. Fear erupted. Europe as we know it shook. The world panicked last Friday after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, or “Brexit”, the now family mix of British and to go out the process is ongoing. And through the media, the shocking results triggered a climax – a bravalanche, a mass brysteria—Brexit-induced suitcases.
Welcome to Portmantexia, as linguist Arnold Zwicky christened this brave new world: many British citizens who voted for Bremain lamented the devastation this explosion exploded. Assessing the damage, some Brexiters now voiced bremorse and Bregret, Where regrexit, on the results. These Bricks wondered how the UK could organize a breturn. Breriminations in Parliament began to steal. Some who were among friends wished they hadn’t skipped the polls on Election Day. Appalled and frightened, immigrants, townspeople and businesses weighed heavily brexodus from the UK Lots of brexperts weighed. A number of tweeters summed this up existential crisis with a feat deal with Kübler-Ross’ five classic stages of grief: brénial, branger, to bargain, brepression Where debridement, acceptance or even eukceptance.
Meanwhile, on the continent, right-wing separatists in the Netherlands have felt a boost to their Following cause, in France since Frexit, in Italy Italexit. German nationalists turned to their homeland Germany for Exit, the Austrians to Austria for Output. spexit, Exit, fix it, Polexit, Swexit, same czexit: Each EU country gets the “-output” processing, inspiring other ironic variants like Country of retirement Where Absolutely. In the United States, some have joked about a Text for the Lone Star State, a Trexite of (or by) the Donald.
But why have we collectively turned to the puns of these brortcoats and coat racksits in the immediate wake of the results of the EU referendum? After all, Brexit, Where Brixit as it first appeared, has been documented since May 2012, and was modeled after Grexit, or Greece’s hypothetical exit from the euro zone. A mix of linguistic and cultural reasons help explain why.
First, the phonology of Brexit was ripe for proliferation. The consonant cluster [br] and vowel [ɛ], as phoneticians render the E in to go out, are very common sounds in English. Can be easily stacked [br] on an existing word, or assemble -xit with the connective tissue of [ɛ], to give a word that sounds new but English-y.
Second, Brexit needed no training as a new word, thanks to the lexical load of its familiar to go out already worn. It accommodated prefixes and suffixes: Post-Brexit and Brexit-style. He took the agency: a Brexiter. It worked as a modifier: the Brexit Fall. It doubled as a verb: at Brexit. Romance but natural, Brexit settles easily in English grammar, open to puns.
Third, Brexit is comfortable in our current zeitgeist of forming new words in English: blending. Older blends, like brunch and smog, are common until invisibility. More recent examples seem contrived and forced, and as such meet with backlash: healthier Where durability are good examples. Others, like listicle, Athletics, and bromance, are successful because they fill a semantic void in the language.
But the mixing has become such a common and productive neologism process in English, woven into the very fabric of our culture of mashup, niche research and self-referral, that we’re breaking down words in whole new ways. As the libfix, a term coined by Arnold Zwicky. As Neal Whitman explained the phenomenon for the The week:
Sometimes a particular word gets dragged into so many portmanteau words that a fragment of that word becomes “freed” to become an affix (i.e. prefix or suffix) on its own – but one that has meaning. much more specific than what you get with affixes like un-, -ly or -ness. The best example might be the suffix -portal, Who freed himself from the name Watergate embark on a successful career turning any name into a scandal.
Brexit is a natural candidate for libfixation. Br- quickly freed himself from the word Brexit to mean anything related to the political reality of Brexit. As warmed by Grexit and predicted by several linguascenti, -to go out Where -xit lent itself to “a sudden, unexpected or premature departure”. Scoxit has been revived at The possible departure from Scotland of Indians from the UK dubbed the departure of Raghuram Rajan from the Royal Bank of India the To leave. Lionel Messi’s retirement from international football is known as the Mexico. However, earlier, South Africans were watching for a Zumxit if President Jacob Zuma resigns. Some even break free brex from Brexit, if brexcring and the Sun‘s “How the Brex Was Won” are any measure.
So why have Brexit mixes spread so fast? The answer tells us a fourth and a fifth reason why brinvansion. Many politicians, media and of course in the UK and Europe have known the 4-year-old for a long time Brexit. Oxford Dictionaries even entered Brexit in its online dictionaries. Corn many others around the world, especially Americans, first listened to the EU referendum just before or after the vote. And their point of introduction, their first impression was the unusual, playful, but still very English and topical coinage: Brexit. Radio hosts glossed the term at the top of their segments; podcasters noticed his boredom. Facebook users have compared it to breakfast. Linguists have discussed its pronunciation and syntax. In its coverage of Brexit, the New York Times still marks it as a new formation. The language of the Brexitsphere was already branded and meta, primed, welcoming puns.
Finally, the victory of “Leave” was a huge surprise. Today, we turn to social media, this new public square, to process this surprising big news. In this space, the observers – and especially the inhabitants directly concerned – searched for words and relied on humor to understand, confront, celebrate or try to articulate such a dramatic and chaotic experience. Brexit puns were a way to participate and make sense of this historical moment in real time. Like bringing fries and dip to a party, Brexit was already linguistically and culturally packed, ready to be torn apart and munch on.
Brexit, as a word and as a phenomenon, is going nowhere. It, and its family of variations, will be probably dispute as the word of the year 2016 in various dictionaries and associations. But as for explosion Where Zumxit? As with so many of our viral memes and trending hashtags, we greedily and compulsively gobbled up all the chips and dips. We quickly reached the peak Brexit, uh, peak output.
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