Referendum#1: a neologism too far

One recurring theme in these musings has been my appreciation of and enthusiasm for new words – more generally, the infinite potential offered by a language that is not afraid to expand, to absorb, to adapt and re-use.  Such neologisms owe an awful lot to chance. Consider the recent referendum, and the massive advantage a single word gave the leavers’ cause.


It’s a great word. The ‘Br’ immediately evokes ‘Britain’, ‘British’ and the whole iconography that so unites and empowers the “Proud to be Bri’ish!” constituency. And the word as a whole has a punchy, decisive ring to it – it’s the kind of noise a Lee Enfield makes when you slam another round into the chamber.

Compare ‘Bremain’, which never gained any traction. Not hard to see why. A limp, flaccid, blah of a word, which sounds if anything like nothing so much as an over the counter remedy for an embarrassing ailment.

Words. The power they have. For good or ill.