Mission Imborisable? Nothing’s Impossible

There is no ignoring Boris Johnson. The Mayor of London, feted by many as a future Prime Minister, has stolen the headlines with a pair of appearances at the Tory party conference in Birmingham.

At the start of his first appearance on Monday night, he was prefaced by a video celebrating his re-election as London head honcho earlier this year. The video was preface by the caption ‘Mission Imborisable’.

A headline writer’s dream? Absolutely. An attempt to get a new word into the dictionary? Absolutely not. And yet…

As Boris coverage increases, and if stories about him and Downing Street continue to be written, the temptation to carry on using Imborisable in connection with any tale of Johnson-esque derring-do may prove irresistible to sub-editors up and down the land.

So while I do not see a future in which the OED features a word loosely defined as ‘an unlikely achievement by Boris Johnson’, I do think this is a word that will be around as a piece of political shorthand for the foreseeable future. And that is already an Imborisable achievement.

Why Gloomadon-Poppers will never catch on

You have to admire that Boris Johnson. He seems to be waging a one-man campaign to get a new word to take off. But after six years of trying, I think he should now concede defeat.

The Mayor of London has been at it again, describing people who believe that the city will grind to a halt during next year’s Olympics as Gloomadon-Poppers. His office has even had to explain this term, saying it is defined as people who habitually put out negative news.

The thing is, it isn’t the first time that Mr Johnson has used this term. Way back in 2005, he said that Gordon Brown was a gloomadon-popping old busybody in a piece in The Telegraph. He described Ken Loach as gloomadon-popping in a Telegraph article about the film industry in 2006. In 2008, he wrote about Gordon Brown and the gloomadon-poppers of the BBC.  And in 2009, he penned a slightly weird article about bees and the gloomadon-poppers of the Financial Times.

Yet despite all his efforts, the word will just not catch on. I have managed to find one independent usage of it, in a Daily Mail piece by Harry Phibbs from January 2011. And yet despite this linguistic cold shoulder, he is at it again and what one can only hope is a final, desperate attempt to launch his word.

I think it is obvious why this has not worked as a new word. It makes no sense when you hear it. It has to be explained to you. For a neologism to take off, you have to get it the first time you hear it. And so I am afraid, Mr Johnson, your gloomadon has been well and truly popped.