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'Partygate': Why Scandals are referred to in English as "Gates"

Do you ever wonder why scandals always have slightly humorous names ending in '-gate'?

It all goes back to the original - the mother of all scandals - Watergate.

The year: 1972

The place: Washington, DC, USA

The players: Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States; a former CIA agent; and Nixon's rival Democratic Party.

I won't bore you with a recounting of the sordid details, but suffice to say that the original 'Gate' scandal involved spy gadgets, a break-in, political rivals... and eventually led to the U.S. President resigning in ignominy.

The event was so momentous it seems to have launched a new grammar rule: scandals are assigned the suffix 'gate'. And not just American political scandals follow this prescription. Scandals all over the world are referred to as 'gates'. There's FIFA-gate (2015), Sofagate (EU), Mandragate (Indonesia), Golfgate (Ireland), Popcorngate (Canada), and if Watergate's not enough, there's Water Bottle-gate (2013).

The trend isn't even reserved to the realm of politics. There's Flexgate (2019), where the display on Apple's Macbook Pro was purported to fail after frequent opening and closing of the lid due to a fragile flex cable. Then there's Spygates 1, 2 and 3 - a series of unrelated sports scandals involving teams spying on the competition.

It's hard to tell if the uptick in 'Gates' in recent years is due to an actual increase in the number of scandals or is the result of the convenient and memorable way we refer to them. But by associating corruption the world over through this strange and slightly humorous turn of the English language, at least we can feel united as a global people collectively shaking our heads and wondering 'what's next?'.

Further reading:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary



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