A small youthquake? More of a Winstonwobble.

“Youthquake” became a sort of popular term in 2017, so much so that Oxford Dictionaries named it word of the year:

The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2017 is… youthquake.

The noun, youthquake, is defined as ‘a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’.

Why was ‘youthquake’ chosen?

The data collated by our editors shows a fivefold increase in usage of youthquake in 2017 compared to 2016, the word having first struck in a big way in June with the UK’s general election at its epicentre.

Thanks to the precedent established in the UK, in New Zealand use of youthquake to discuss young people’s engagement in politics was rapidly picked up by politicians and the press alike during the country’s general election. The word enjoyed increased and sustained usage both prior to and after the polling, setting youthquake firmly on its way to become a fixture of political discourse.

The use of ‘youthquake’ in New Zealand was fairly minor as far as I saw.

It was hyped a little during the election campaign, but once the numbers were analysed Election ‘youthquake’ a myth, figures show

While turnout for 18 to 24-year-olds on the electoral roll jumped from 62.7 percent to 69.3 percent, there were actually fewer in that age group enrolled to vote in 2017 than in 2014.

Combining the Electoral Commission’s data with population figures from Statistics NZshows only 47.6 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in the 2017 election. In 2014, it was 47.4 percent – almost exactly the same.

It’s a similar story for 25 to 29-year-olds; while the Electoral Commission data suggests a 5.5 percent boost in turnout, if you include people who aren’t enrolled, turnout actually fell 1 percent.

‘Youthquake’ got a single mention in submissions, didn’t get any support, and didn’t make the cut of ten words in the Public Address Word of the Year 2017.

Nick Cater in The Australian: Words of 2017: charge your shoeys and toast our kidult runchers

Before bidding an indifferent farewell to 2017, let us ponder what is meant by “youth-quake”, the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year, and some of the other ­neologisms of the past 12 months.

A youth-quake, we are told, almost cost the Conservatives power in last year’s British general election when restless millennials voted for Jeremy Corbyn, an ageing muddle-headed mugwump, to borrow Boris Johnson’s sobriquet.

There was a small youth-quake in New Zealand in September, after which a 37-year-old woman with ostentatious teeth and a modest degree from the University of Waikato discovered she had become Prime Minister. No one knows how or why.

Despite the many words devoted to the topic, we await a convincing explanation of why the youth of today are quaking or what sort of world they want it to be when the ground settles.

The youth-quake generation’s causes are invariably “First World problems”, to use a phrase added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to describe “a minor annoyance experienced by people in relatively affluent circumstances”.

Most made up words, particularly involving politics, are usually attempts by journalists to concoct some claim to fame rather than being a popular term emerging from the masses. I don’t hear ordinary people going around talking about ‘youthquake’ or Jacindamania’ in normal conversation.

The ‘missing million’ is probably barely understood if known at all outside the circles of political obsessives.

‘Youthquake’ isn’t even a new term according to Oxford.

When was ‘youthquake’ coined?

In 1965, emerging from a post-war period of tumultuous change, Diana Vreeland, editor-in-chief of Vogue, declared the year of the youthquake.

In an editorial in the Vogue US January edition that year, she wrote: ‘The year’s in its youth, the youth in its year. … More dreamers. More doers. Here. Now. Youthquake 1965.’

That’s well before Ardern was born.

Vreeland coined youthquake – based on the pattern of ‘earthquake’ – to describe the youth-led fashion and music movement of the swinging sixties, which saw baby boomers reject the traditional values of their parents.

As in 2017, the UK was at the heart of the youthquake, with ‘the London Look’ of boutique street-style individualism taking the high fashion houses of Paris, Milan, and New York by storm to inform a new mass-produced, ready-to-wear fashion directive worldwide.

The use of ‘youthquake’ in New Zealand was just another lame attempt to liken the election here in September to prior elections in the US, Canada, France and the UK, all of which were in quite different circumstances to each other and New Zealand.

Here Winston Peters aspired to trouncing Labour and challenging National for top spot at one stage of the campaign, but NZ First got the wobbles and came close to dropping out of Parliament. He then went through the motions of choosing between blue jelly and red and green jelly. He ended up helping Labour jack up what may well be a wobbly coalition, thanks to some gelatinous positioning by the Greens.

So we had more of a Winstonwobble, and Winston’s core support is from an elderly demographic. There is little similarity between him and Sanders or Corbyn.

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  1. chrism56

     /  3rd January 2018

    There is a lot of similarity between Mr Peters, Sanders and Corbyn. They are all long term career politicians, often on the outer with the public, who have all tried to tap into the disaffected vote.

  2. Conspiratoor

     /  3rd January 2018

    “Winston’s core support is from an elderly demographic”

    While the above may be correct here’s another one that might come as a surprise

    “According to the NZ electoral study and various other sources, New Zealand First actually has the second youngest core voter demographic of any political party. Only the Green Party boasts of having a greater appeal to young people”


    • Gezza

       /  3rd January 2018

      The older ones have dementia & only remember to vote for him because the NZF pick up van crew write his name on the note in their lunch packs.

      The younger ones haven’t been around long enuf to have learned learned to forget whatever Winston says, because he only says it to get votes, then when elected he often just shits on the suckers who fell for it & ignores whatever it was that he said was his policy.

      • Conspiratoor

         /  3rd January 2018

        Still hurting? Time heals the scars

        • Gezza

           /  3rd January 2018

          😳 ❓ Nope. We’ve got what we’ve got, ain’t no use in cryin’. 😀

          I’m just gonna watch the show this year & see how it goes. 🤔 Early days. 😐

          It’s the suckers who thought they’d be getting a general referendum on tne Maori seats I feel for. 😆

          AS IF, the wily old dog !

          • PartisanZ

             /  3rd January 2018

            Gotta tau toko that Gezza …

            Here’s one for the anti-smacking law referendees too eh?

            Two words Winston can’t use in his election campaign vocabulary, not that he needs one any longer … “binding” and “CHARGE!!!” …

            Somehow I can’t see The Right Brigade being led by Shane Jones … and who else is there?

            Maybe Kym Koloni will form her own Race Hate Party …?

  3. Ray

     /  3rd January 2018

    It is almost amusing to see the election being described as a leftward swing and a youthquake by the usual suspects, looking at Robert, blazer, the Standard writers and Colonel Trotter, when the so called swing was by that old dog Winston Peters.
    Winston knows how to pull the strings of the “usual suspects” and his talk of capitalisms failure was just that.
    My guess is that some small tinkering and tiny intervention with the market is all we will see of that!

    • Blazer

       /  3rd January 2018

      Crony Capitalism is certainly alive and well..Ray.I see an article in todays Herald about how Hart got rich…it forgets to mention the huge leg up at the expense of taxpayers…the Govt Printing business sold for a…song.When you look at NZ’s rich,success ‘ stories inevitably you will find taxpayer largesse ,somewhere in the..mix,either or and insider trading and sharp practice.There are a few exceptions,but not…many.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  3rd January 2018

        If you want to find crony capitalism, look for a Lefty Government.

  4. Kitty Catkin

     /  3rd January 2018

    I was going to say that youthquake was hardly a modern word. as it’s been around since the 60s…I didn’t know who first said it, but have seen it in 60s writings. It probably seems very modern to the Winstonites.

  5. patupaiarehe

     /  3rd January 2018

    A wobble alright. Mr Peters could have stopped the recent excise tax increase, but has failed to deliver.


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