If I had wanted to be really thick, I would have entitled this piece “I’m Declaring Gategate on ‘-Gate’ “. But there’s a limit to how much a human being should be permitted to suffer.
We all know who to blame for all of this. If, however, you’ve spent the last 37 years at the bottom of a beer keg, you might have no idea who Richard Nixon is, or what the Watergate scandal was. I feel terrible for you. You have no idea how huge public scandals can be. Forget Joost or Tiger Woods. Watergate was the most gobsmackingly juicy piece of sleaze since Judas Iscariot. Basically, a nefarious bunch of no-gooders, rather dubiously known as The Plumbers, broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters located at the Watergate complex in Washington DC on the night of June 17 1972. They were arrested, largely because it wasn’t the SAPS on the job that night but an over-enthusiastic security guard. Their arrest lead to Richard Nixon resigning as president of the United States of America two years later. I know, I laugh as well. The idea of President Zuma resigning because of a burglary is just too ticklish for words.
The media were beside themselves with joy after Watergate. Across the world, editors and copywriters fell to their knees and wept openly. Finally, the heavens had opened and the copy manna fell from heaven. The Watergate Scandal!!!! screamed the headlines. And just like that, the “-gate” suffix was born. Every other public scandal, of varying consequence has had “-gate” suffixed to it — 37 years later, I’ve just about had it! As Gus Silber quipped on Twitter, Richard Nixon has a lot to answer for. (Gus also asked me to mention the current Water Scandal in Rosebank. It’s no Watergate, but it’s still a scandal. I’m given to understand that residents of that suburb have been reduced to Valpre wipe-downs and showering at the gym)
The 70s writers had an excuse. What else would they have called subsequent scandals? Oilkennedy? Don’t be silly. But we, in today’s age have no business gating everything. Truth be told, it smacks of much laziness on the part of modern copywriters. Why bother thinking up a new, catchy catchphrase when we have “-gate”, that well-worn but trusty suffix? Jacob Zuma and his healthy penchant for embroiling himself in controversy — Zumagate. The arms deal — Armsgate. The crude oil spike in the 70s — Oilgate. Patricia de Lille’s calls to have Armsgate investigated that went unheeded by the ruling party — Investigate. The recent climate change data manipulation scandal – Climategate (and this is where my patience began to wear thin). I should probably stop. When trying to curb this great evil, it’s probably a good idea not to give people ideas. See what I mean, though? Laziness! I’m sometimes tempted to think we need a Gategate. The only problem with that is people wouldn’t get the irony. They’d applaud Gategate, and continue gating everything else with gusto. Pretty soon I’d have to call for a Gategategate, at which I’d be marched into the Kalahari desert and summarily shot at dawn. Chris Roper thought we should call it Copygate.
At what point will the writers see how obnoxious Copygate is getting? Not any time soon. Why they didn’t call Lockedgatesgate when Henry Louis Gates was wrongfully arrested by a cop earlier this year? Did an editor somewhere get a pang of conscience? For the sake of civilisation and the rule of law, I hope so. Who knows how far these writers will go, otherwise? Imagine what would happen if Bill Gates were to steal his neighbour’s rather fetching garden gate? Would they be able to resist the urge to call the incident Gatesgardengategate? I doubt it.
Come on, writers. You’re smart people. Come up with something more original, cleverer and more refreshing than “-gate”.
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