A Wiki Hacker Compiled a Dictionary of Brexit's Most Useless Words

Happy Article 50! Here's the Lexicographical Brexitology blog you've been waiting for.

Mar 30 2017, 10:00am

If—and it's a big if—I'm around in 60 years time to have the privilege of looking back at the halcyon days of the 2016 EU Referendum, the most striking aspect that will throb in my ageing, AI-augmented mind will be the language, and how words were used to utterly wipe meaning from any predicted consequences of ripping Europe apart.

The word 'Brexit'—and its lexicographical, bastard broods and portmanteaus—have successfully turned the referendum debacle into a semantics circus so loved, so desired by politicians and craved by the electorate.

"Tell us about the Great Bremoaner Purge of '19," a grandchild will probe, tugging on a metamaterial sleeve draped wistfully around my limp arm. "Why did the Bremoaners break away from the Bremainers?"

"I don't know, kid."

If all this lexicographical lip-service is confusing you, or, like me, you just want to spend the Great Day of The Triggering of Article 50 closing the book on the tumultuous past nine months, here's the perfect read: Chris Monteiro's 'Lexicographical Brexitology', a one stop shop for all your Brexit terminology needs.

"Me and a mate of mine started saying it's ridiculous, all this talk of Brexit," sysadmin and cybercrime researcher Monteiro told Motherboard. "We were saying, 'Brexit this, Brexit that and what not. It's like Brexageddon!' So I said that's not a thing though, because it's not in Wikipedia, and my colleague said, 'We'll see about that then,' and he added it to Wikipedia. We started brainstorming a whole bunch of stuff that we added as redirects."

Duncan Hull/Flickr

And thus, the Lexicographical Brexitology compilation commenced, using Wikipedia as a replacement dictionary. Monteiro explained how, when it comes to adding redirects on Wikipedia, the site is quite lax. "As long as it's not defamatory or misleading it goes. Hence, that's why we have everything from Brexageddon to Brexapocalypse to Red, White, and Blue Brexit, because it actually redirects within Wikipedia," he told Motherboard. "It kind of creates a new game if you know how to play Wikipedia like this."

Monteiro's 'Lexicographical Brexitology' is a whimsical look into the language borne out of Brexit, and wherein details the most ludicrous linguistic corruptions to grace the English language since June 23, 2016. Brecession, Brexageddon, Brexshit, Brexiteer, Remoaner, Remaniac, it's all there. Motherboard asked Monteiro what it is about the usage of new words that becomes so powerful during times like the EU referendum.

"Particularly with the language of Remoaners, Remaniacs, Brexiteers—they've created very strong emotive connotations with people who affiliate with these views, and it's quite nasty to see oneself labelled as either," replied Monteiro. "Words take on meaning in the context of their use, and it was quite interesting to see this happen very, very quickly and emotively. Most people don't realize it's happening."

And with yesterday's Article 50 triggering, we can probably look forward to a few more years yet of what Monteiro deems "semantic satiation"—the temporary loss of meaning of words when they are repeated ad infinitum.

Subscribe to pluspluspodcast, Motherboard's new show about the people and machines that are building our future.