How Brexit Changed the English Language

Back in June 2016, on the very day that the UK voted in a referendum on their EU membership, which ended in a result of 51.9% leave, online newspaper Quartz published a light-hearted post on the potential names for the departure of every member of the EU, of which Brexit was among them. After the referendum, the word completely exploded and in 2016 Collins dictionary named it word of the year – which is quite an achievement for a brand-new word. Four years later and the word Brexit is no longer used in quotation marks but it is now strongly embedded in everyday language. It is even recognised all over the globe due to the widespread use of English as well as the internet, and obviously due to the huge media coverage of Brexit, in particular the humorous wordplay from the British media.

As a result of the Brexit phenomenon, artist Simon Roberts created a video called ‘The Brexit Lexicon’ which is a collection of nearly 5,000 expressions from social media and the news related to Brexit. One of the many phrases in the video is the Irish Backstop. Most people will be familiar with the word backstop referring to a fence or a position in sport, however it is now used to signify the potential arrangements to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This has been one of the toughest problems that Brexit negotiators have faced because of the years of previous conflict in the region, reintroducing a border between Northern Ireland (who will leave the EU) and the Republic of Ireland (who will remain) could be disastrous.

Brexit has created entirely new concepts since the positive result of the referendum for example, ‘hard Brexit’ and ‘soft Brexit’. A ‘hard Brexit’ refers to the United Kingdom leaving the EU without an agreement on what would happen afterwards with regards to important matters like trade and movement of people. This outcome can also be referred to as ‘crashing out’ which is another very popular new phrase. On the other hand, a ‘soft Brexit’ implies a more well-managed and organised exit with agreements put in place to ensure a smoother and less chaotic outcome.

Brexit has also influenced other neologism’s (new terms) such as ‘Trexit’ which refers to a US resident leaving the country due to Donald Trump as well as the term ‘Megxit’ which describes the decision of Megan Markel and Prince Harry to step back from their royal duties in the UK. There are many other words similar to these and this trend has occurred due to the catchiness of the word Brexit.

It is clear that Brexit has had an enormous influence on the use of the English language as not only has it created so many new words and new meanings for already existing words but the word itself has become such a phenomenon, that it denotes an event as well as an entire process.

At BBLTranslation we know that languages are alive. Languages develop through the evolution of societies. They are changing, new words are appearing as new concepts are created. A language that is not capable of adapting to social changes is a dead language. Our native specialised translators will always know what the most appropriate term is for the texts of their client’s and their internationalization requirements.

Photo credits to: Stefan Schweihofer (Stux) (Pixabay) 

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