I first read this word in yesterday's paper, then twice in today's, and I've heard it at least three more times on the radio today. It had to come, because the suffix '-gate' has been applied to pretty well every political scandal since 1972, and has become easily the most insidious journalistic cliche of the past fifty years. Of course, as Marina Hyde points out in the Guardian, the original had nothing whatsoever to do with water, or, for that matter, any sort of gate. Watergate was just the name of a building. I'd like to be able to identify the first journalist to appropriate the last syllable of this word as a generic suffix, and have a word with them, but I haven't the energy.
What gets me about this particular piece of linguistic abuse, though, is that it misses the point. The current discourse should no longer be about phone hacking. That was merely the entry point, the little crack in a huge wall, into which a much bigger wedge needs to be driven. The 'Hackgate' neologistic cliche plays into the hands of the Murdochs of this world, because it enables them to trivialise the much bigger issues at stake. (I presume you all know what those are, but just in case, I'll summarise them in Lord Acton's two words: 'Power Corrupts'.) By keeping it at that level of specifics, it lets them damp it down (with carefully orchestrated play-acting - did anyone see Murdoch's performance yesterday? It reminded me of Ernest Saunders - and was the foam-pie thrower briefed, or employed?) and get on with the more important business of launching the Scum on Sunday. And buying the next generation of rotten politicians and policemen.
Phew, that felt good! Haven't had a good rant for ages.