Turks Show Capulling Power

Protests and civil action can often be a fertile source for neologisms, with Arab Spring in particular being the most prominent example of recent years.

The situation in Turkey, which has seen protesters ranged against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over plans to redevelop a park, have also spawned a new word, and it may yet grow to become the single one to encapsulate the story.

Prime Minister Erdogan described the protesters as çapulcu, meaning looters. If it was meant to demean people, it backfired. Not only did those ranged against the Prime Minister willingly embrace the word, they even coined a verb, Capulling, pronounced Chapulling. The concept of Capulling shot across social media, the wearing of T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase ‘Every Day I’m Capulling’ became widespread, and Turkish newspapers even started referring to the protests as the Capulling movement. To be seen to be Capulling rapidly became the mark of belonging, of being part of something important.

The definition has evolved to mean roughly “to act in a peaceful and humorous manner to remind governments why they exist”. It is also showing signs of breaking out of Turkish and across the language divide, so as well being the key word of record for this event, it may cross over into other protests in other countries.

What is most interesting of course is how it represents the classic modern evolution of the new word. Somebody uses a word designed to be derogatory. Recognising the power of words, those slighted turn it on its head to make something positive out of it, something to bind people together. And then the power of social media does the rest, giving it an explosive trajectory towards establishment. It is a word of social media and identity, existing there to begin with and then gaining oxygen via those outlets as well.

Oh, and it’s a word of viral videos as well:

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