Saturday, September 26, 2009

A stillborn neologism

Here's a new and not very promising vocabulary word:

The 28-minute program -- quite possibly the first ever birthermercial -- features community access production values, heavy use of foreboding strings soundtrack, and standard-issue Birther ideology.

Birthermercial fits into the X-mercial form alongside infomercial and other less successful runts of the litter, like webmercial and edumercial.

Sure it's clear. The semantics are manageable: if you know what a birther is, you can probably figure out what a birthermercial is. It'll fit into conversations that can occur with people of all regions, professions, classes, political views, and most ages. It's relatively easy to say. It doesn't sound too similar to other words. But it's not likely to catch on.

It's not applicable to something that comes up a lot. Or has ever come up. There aren't that many commercials that even mention the issue of Obama's birth certificate. And even if there were, the issue won't be relevant beyond the length of Obama's presidency. Even if the word does remain relevant to future presidents —which isn't likely— how necessary is such specificity? If the semantics of birthermercial were to widen and be applied more generally, it would have to push out the words or phrases already in use. We can use negative ad or conspiracy theory or paranoia to point to such enterprises. I'm not sure how long the verb swiftboat will last, but it's already handy as a more general term for engaging in this type of smear campaign.

A search for the term brings up about 150 results on Google™.* All of them in stories about one commercial. The article linked to above uses the word once in the headline, once in body of the story, and twice in subsequent updates. A follow-up posting uses the word three times all in the body of the story. That smacks of hope that the word will last. It won't.

*About 1180 hits are reported as found, but as usual, those results overstate the actual number.

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