Looking back on a summer of synonyms, swearing and silence

by Stratton Craig

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There’s been an unusually high number of stories this summer that revolve around words, or a lack of them in some cases. The team here at Stratton Craig has taken a quick look over some of the hottest word-related topics that matched the soaring temperatures in July and August.
A subtle shift in language sets a new agenda in Afghanistan
It’s been noticed by one of our team that the language used to announce deaths in the ongoing Afghanistan conflicts has changed. For example, attackers are no longer referred to as ‘insurgents’ – they are now ‘enemies of Afghanistan’. The change represents a renewed focus on the Afghan people, and highlights their efforts to restore their country to a state of order. The wording – ‘family’ are informed, rather than ‘next of kin’ – is also an improvement in our opinion – it’s more human, and sensitive to the fact that real people and lives are affected.
The key to this adjustment is that it doesn’t make light of the deaths. The tone has more empathy and feels less distant from the events. Simple changes to a tone of voice can make a big difference, as they do here.
The Royal Baby name keeps with years of tradition
Prince William and Princess Catherine played it safe with baby George Alexander Louis, using two traditionally ‘royal’ forenames that were favourites with bookmakers. As expected, they stuck to the ‘acceptable royal baby names’ list (that we’re sure exists in PDF format somewhere), and the new addition to the family may become the seventh King George.
With Harry emerging as the most popular name for baby boys in England and Wales yet again, the enduring appeal of a ‘royal’ name is clear.
Germany creates a storm in a teetasse with one new word
Those of us with a more, ahem, delicate vocabulary were stunned to find that a British swearword has recently entered the German dictionary. ‘S**tstorm’ is now a part of the country’s vocabulary, having come to mean ‘a public outcry, especially one that takes place online’.
We borrow from many other languages without translation: entrepreneur is French, dungaree originates from Hindi and slalom is originally Norwegian. It’s also not unusual to find that the meaning of a word changes over time – ‘wicked’ is now more good than bad, for example. The big shock here is the swearword, and the cultural difference that’s made it an acceptable term in Germany.
Twitter users fight a war of words – by saying nothing at all
At the start of August, thousands of people took part in a self-imposed silence on Twitter, in protest against threats and insults sent to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez. Interestingly, she chose not to join in with the #TwitterSilence, refusing to give up her voice to fight her critics. A separate group also decided against staying quiet and used their own hashtag to get involved, tacking #shoutback onto the end of their tweets.
Both tactics worked as ways of raising awareness around the issue, but the increased buzz also saw more women receive similar threatening messages in the days following. The power of Twitter as a digital communications tool has been clear for a long time, and while we really feel that Twitter does a whole lot of good for brands and communication this demonstrates the ability of social media to harm as well as help.
We’d love you to share your memorable wordy moments with us. Contact us by email ([email protected]) or tweeting us (@strattoncraig).
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