The gate-gate scandal

In Foggy Bottom in Washington, D.C. is the Watergate complex. A site covering ten acres with a hotel-office building, three apartment blocks and an office block. It was completed in 1971, and is one of the most popular residential spots in the city, having a particular popularity with executive appointees and Congressional members.

Due to events that took place in the Watergate’s hotel-office building in the HQ of the Democratic National Committee, we have the scandal that was named, the Watergate scandal.

Since that time, the suffix –gate has been tacked onto all sorts of other scandals. In most cases, things that just don’t seem to be scandalous enough.

Essentially, because underlining a word with red pen and adding five exclamation marks is considered a bit juvenile, the accepted way of doing the same thing is to add –gate to the end. It’s a way of suggesting that you should be more shocked than the available evidence actually suggests is appropriate to the circumstances.

While the usage is all very common parlance these days it hasn’t – as near as I can see – lost any of its effect. The –gate suffix moves literal tons of newspapers that would otherwise lay around unsold without this convenient element of demagoguery.

In the 37 years since the Watergate scandal, there have been more than 125 scandals, mini-scandals, and non-scandals that have earned the –gate suffix in the first-world mass-media, from the cost of the Mexican President’s bathroom towels to a crackdown on non-commercially approved pies in Pennsylvania. That’s more than 3 per year.

And that, dear readers, is somewhat scandalous.

Addendum: If you’re here about the Emerald viewer and its so-called “Emeraldgate” (bleah), then you probably want to look here and here.



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