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.

Marge George and old Shakespeare

There seems to be a mushrooming of discussion on William Shakespeare, coinciding with the 400th anniversary of his death.

I saw an interesting documentary last week that looked at how little was actually known about Shakespeare the person, questioned why he wasn’t imprisoned like other playwrights of the time, and suggested the author’s name may have been a pseudonym for someone close to the royal court.

The arguments will probably continue as long as the playing of the plays.

An interesting post at Oxford Dictionaries – Language matters: Why Shakespeare is even funnier than you thought

To be honest I never found Shakespeare funny in the first place. I thought the plays I have studied while at school – Macbeth and Romeo Juliet – were tedious.

This may in part be explained by this Oxford post that explains that English was pronounced significantly differently four centuries ago in England.

For example George rhymed with charge (George has changed).

We’re all familiar with at least some Shakespeare, but the chances are that we’ve only either read his words on the page, or heard them spoken with modern pronunciation.

This, however, does not entirely match how Shakespeare and the original casts of his plays would have spoken. Even modern British English is not the same as what is known as Original Pronunciation.

Historical linguists have reconstructed Original Pronunciation, often based on conclusions that can be drawn from spelling and specific instructions given in 16th-century grammar books.

In these videos David Crystal, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespeare Pronunciation, explains how Original Pronunciation recovers the original rhymes and puns that are otherwise missing in modern performances of Shakespeare’s plays.

Puns in Original Pronunciation

Rhymes in Original Pronunciation

I find language and it’s continual evolution far more interesting the the writings of whoever used the pseudonym William Shakespeare.

I had an aunty Marge. If she had been a George in Shakespeare’s England (she actually came from Chelsea but 300 years later) her names would have rhymed.