I read an interesting piece a few weeks ago about the Gangnam Style phenomenon. It said that linguists were doubtless having a fine time working out how it had become an idiomatic expression.
The question for me is – has it become an idiomatic expression? For those of you unfamiliar with the worldwide hit (and to my shame I must admit I was ignorant of it until recently, when a South Korean friend showed the video to my wife), Gangnam Style is a Korean music and dance phenomenon which has swept the world. Dictionary definitions, such as they are, refer to it as a Korean neologism for the lifestyle of those in the upscale Gangnam district of Seoul, while the wider definition is emerging as replicating the leg wagging, horse-like dance moves of the international smash hit.
But has it become wider than that yet, in a linguistic sense? When people refer to doing things Gangnam Style, are they talking about taking on an attitude and a way of doing things, or are they just referring to people copying the dance. I think it is the latter. At the moment, the internet is awash with soldiers, prisoners and Eton pupils performing their own takes on the song. But that’s currently all it is, albeit on a vast scale.
So while Gangnam Style will undoubtedly be cited as one of the words of the year when it comes to wrapping up the language of 2012, its meaning is likely to remain fixed to musical interpretations, rather than something which has become more entrenched in society.