Say I Don’t To Sarriage

The subject of gay marriage is never far from the headlines, and the linguistic aspects of the debate also froth constantly near the surface.

Last year I looked at the discussions around the naming of the whole institution, and in particular the efforts of some to introduce a brand new word for it.

At the time I said that this completely missed the point at the heart of these issues, and that by giving this institution a different name it automatically became a different institution and therefore did not achieve the equality for which its adherents are fighting.

But despite this, some people still don’t get it. One such person is New Zealander Russell Morrison, whose contribution to a lively discussion among his country’s MPs was to suggest legislation for a brand new word – Sarriage.

He said: “Then a person can be asked whether he or she is married or sarried, and the response will make the situation clear for everybody.”

No Mr Morrison. What it will make clear to everybody is that parliament has failed in its role to give equality to people and has instead continued to sideline them by creating a brand new word. Or as Australian Marriage Equality’s national convener Rodney Croome eloquently put it: “What is the point of assigning same-sex couples a different word when ‘marriage’ describes exactly what many same-sex couples already have, a loving, committed, long-term relationship?

“The effect of alternate words like ‘sarriage’ would be to set same-sex partners apart, re-inforce discrimination against us and suggest our relationships are somehow less valuable and less serious than our heterosexual counterparts.”

Mr Croome is absolutely right. New words come in when there is a gap which needs filling. That is not the case here. But it will not stop the suggestions coming in.

Marmageddon – You Either Love it or Hate it

There’s a crisis in New Zealand. The country is set to run out of Marmite. And the headline writers have dubbed it ‘Marmageddon’.

In the spirit of the famous spread, you either love or hate this bit of linguistic dexterity. My feelings towards it match my sentiments towards Marmite on toast. Love it.

I think the reason that it works linguistically is because it is knowingly ludicrous and is almost taking the mickey out of itself. Its in-built sense of irony makes it a success. Of course the disappearance of Marmite off supermarket shelves is not a real apocalypse, especially as it will come back this year once the factory damaged in last year’s earthquake is repaired.

But by being called ‘Marmageddon’, the situation not only becomes easy for headline writing but is also immediately defined as lightweight, an ‘and finally’ story for the end of the news that will make everybody smile.

I don’t expect Marmageddon to last for long or to leap Linsanity-like into official lexical recognition. But wouldn’t it be great if it left a legacy of -ageddon suffixes, to be applied to any suitable words engulfed by a catastrophe. The world’s population of Llamas is becoming extinct – Llamageddon, screams the world’s press. Cotton shortages are affecting popular sleepwear – it’s Pyjamageddon.

But it probably wouldn’t work if there was a worldwide ban on the playing of Bananarama records. After all, that would hardly be a crisis.