-gate

I read the term “deflategate” for the first time today. Peculiar, but not funny enough to laugh at. Even better when referring to that incredibly, absolutely minor flap about deflated footballs — and it did make me laugh — is “ballghazi.”

Which made me wonder: just how many incredibly, absolutely minor flaps have had that -gate suffix attached to them in the last 40 years? Wiki, as usual, makes a stab at such a list, but there’s probably no way to know them all. I’d never heard of many of those on the list, and for good reason, since it includes the likes of “Flakegate”:

Photographs of the wedding reception of TV presenter Anthea Turner were used to promote Cadbury’s then new Snowflake chocolate bar, bringing scorn from the tabloid press and causing Turner to claim this was not part of the £450,000 by OK! magazine paid her for exclusive access to her wedding.

The article also credits, or blames, columnist William Safire (whom I didn’t realize has been dead for five years until I looked him up) with getting the ball rolling on -gate. Could be. But it might have been more spontaneous than that, as language tends to be.

I also wonder: in another 40 years (say), is anyone going to remember that the construction started with Watergate? The suffix has legs enough to survive that long, but historical amnesia being what it is, I can imagine some as-yet unborn person thinking, “Gate? That’s strange. Where did that come from?” And then either forgetting about it, or finding out by tapping the gizmo that pulls up whatever information ocean is sloshing around in the future.

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