Want more controversy? Use the word 'gate'

Like a virus the term has entered the Pakistani media, taking over every major controversy that has cropped up.

Bilal Iqbal June 26, 2012
Nothing speaks controversy like suffixing ‘gate’ to a word. Memogate, Mehrangate, Familygate, Mediagate, Khybergate, Gategate? Sure, the last two ‘gates’ aren’t real, but the Pakistani media has seen enough gates recently to make one wonder where all these gates are coming from.

The term originated in 1972 with the Watergate scandal, according to Oxford English Dictionary (OED). In an article explaining the origin of the term, the OED said:
One of the most significant episodes in modern US politics, Watergate has since reshaped the language of scandal and controversy.” Within a year, the –gate suffix had been isolated from Watergate and had become the choice word for scandals.

A look at the Wikipedia page of the “List of scandals with ‘-gate’ suffix” will reveal well over a 100 scandals in America alone that were given the gate treatment. The fact that the term is now considered trite did not stop it from seeping into Pakistani media, which had, until just a year ago, steered clear of the ‘gate’ fever.

Perhaps, it was Memogate’s similarity to the American Memogate of 2004 that helped the term enter the Pakistani media’s vocabulary. Like a virus, the term has taken over every major controversy that has cropped up since.

Attaching the suffix ‘-gate’ to a word achieves two things. One, it makes it easy for people to remember the entire episode and two, it presumably adds a sense of importance to the controversy — that this scandal here belongs to the noble Gate family, one that you have been familiar with before and one that you trust to bring hours of good family entertainment every day.

And for this very reason, like their American counterparts, Pakistani media will continue to suffix the word to anything that involves high-level politicians or businessmen. Never mind the fact that people have already started groaning with boredom when they hear the term.

Perhaps, we should limit the use of the word to no more than one scandal a year. After all, you make sure that your audience does not get overexposed to your star product. Maybe we should have a Council of Gate, with appointed ‘gatekeepers’ to make sure only really worthy scandals enter the hallowed Hall of Gates.

Read more by Bilal here.
Bilal Iqbal Bilal Iqbal is a subeditor at the Islamabad Desk of The Express Tribune and an avid technology and movie buff.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


MastMaula | 11 years ago | Reply Very recently this "Gate" has tailgated into India's borders too in form of 'Coalgate'(please don't mistake it for Colgate :P)
mr. righty rightist | 11 years ago | Reply ohh. People, watch the movie Frost/Nixon to understand what is GATE?
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