Watergate opens its doors to new lingo

Watergate opens its doors to new lingo

For reasons best known only to linguists, most of the four-letter words are linked to profanities. By a quirk of fate, those that did not belong to...

For reasons best known only to linguists, most of the four-letter words are linked to profanities. By a quirk of fate, those that did not belong to the original list of 'bad' words but having four letters have joined the infamous brigade. One such word is 'gate'. Ever since the Watergate scandal broke out 41 years ago, the suffix has been gaining currency with every new scandal and scam and its notoriety has increased in geometric proportions.

Truly, without the Watergate, there would not have been hundreds of 'gates' around the world. India, for sure, would top the list of countries with maximum number of 'gates'. Interestingly, sometimes amusingly, more 'gates' are opening leading to more scandals involving politicians, industrialists, socialites and the high and the mighty.

If Watergate is the father of all gates, their mother is in India where every scam that comes to light proves to be bigger than the other. So it's difficult to zero in on a particular con job and declare it is the mother of all. For instance, when Coalgate was considered as the biggest scam, spot-fixing cricketgate has overtaken it. By the time we mentally prepare ourselves that after all betting is in our genes and all is well as long as there is a level-playing field, something else will crop up. So, let's sit fingers crossed and enjoy watching 'gates' being opened by watchdog agencies. We must also remember that their closure is not time-bound. We, ordinary citizens, shut them from our memories because they are not openings for good night sleep. They cause distress and hypertension. Better leave them at the scandals' gates.

But such things happen rarely in other countries where scams break out once in a while. The first one in the US involving the head of the State was, of course, Watergate, the political scandal that shook the foundations of American democratic institutions. To this week, exactly 41 years ago, there was a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington DC on June 17, 1972.

Republican President Richard Nixon was blamed for the dirty job and after two years of investigation, he was found guilty of attempted cover-up and scores of his top aides were accused of helping him in taping in conversations. Nixon, by that time infamously called Dirty Dick, was on the verge of being impeached. By a whisker of luck, he was forced to quit the office on August 9, 1974, making him the only person in the US history to resign till today. What followed next was a shame on America that prides itself on the clean image of its Presidents and their men and women.

Altogether 43 people, including top officials of the Nixon administration, were indicted, tried and imprisoned. The massive Watergate cover-up would not have come to light but for two Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose painstaking work, aided by an anonymous source called Deep Throat, later identified as FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, had exposed the Nixon administration.

Now, Watergate is history. But the infamous saga of burglary that resulted in the fall of an American President has left so many inerasable impressions on the minds of people that even after four decades the suffix 'gate' continues to evoke the memories of Nixon era. In a way, Watergate has immortalized political controversies anywhere in the world by lending its suffix. And, the media love to label the expression, though sometimes indiscriminately, playing on words and using pun and parody.

Every country has had its share of '-gates.' If Britain had Camillagate, Sachsgate, Hackgate, Plebgate, earlier, the latest one to join the list is Horsegate � horse meat sold in the market in the guise of mutton. If that is Prime Minister David Cameron government's contribution to the global gate-lingo, his predecessor Gordon Brown had to chew Biscuitgate in 2009.

After Watergate, the most famous one in the US is former President Bill Clinton's Monicagate � the White House sex scandal involving Bill and an intern bearing the same name and its titillating accounts find their echo in other countries as well now.

If France had Winegate � vinegar turned into table wine using chemicals � Australia had Utegate. If one goes through the scandals that have rocked the countries around the world and their nomenclature, one can compile a compendium of 'gate words' and how they have been morphed and made compound words for easy understanding of controversies. These words that put scandals in a nutshell spice up the English language and make the job of headline writers in newspapers a tad easy.

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