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'Single-use' has been named the 2018 Word of the Year, but coming in close is 'gammon'.
By
Emily Nicol

12 Nov 2018 - 4:29 PM  UPDATED 12 Nov 2018 - 4:30 PM

The Collins Dictionary announced the final list for their annual 'Word Of The Year'.

As pollution climbs the political agenda, the word 'single-use' (i.e: single-use plastic) has earned it the top place, after seeing a four-fold increase since 2013.

Many other modern buzzwords featured, including ‘floss’, ‘gaslight’ and even ‘MeToo’. Also among the 2018 list is ‘gammon’.

In a mainstream English-language context the word is associated with the meat from of a pig (first coming into use in Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby, first published in 1885). However, it is common in Aboriginal-Australian vernacular, with Australia's Macquarie Dictionary defining it as "deceitful nonsense".

It is so integrated within public culture that in October, the NT News reported a story that students in Nhulunbuy, East Arnhem Land were baffled that Tony Abbott— the Special Envoy on Indigenous Affairs —had to ask the meaning of the word. 

But in 2018, the British Dictionary describes it as something else;

After adding the term to the database in 2017, 'gammon' is described as, 'a person, typically male, middle-aged and white, with reactionary views, especially one who supports the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union.'

This notion was first made popular in Britain after children's author Ben Davis tweeted an image of nine exasperated seemingly right-wing Anglo men from the audience of a Question Time leaders’ special on the BBC, accompanying the photo with: “the Great Wall of Gammon has had its way long enough”.

The term describes the rosy hue older white men may have due to high blood pressure, general aging and excessive alcohol. Matt Zarb-Cousin, UK Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn’s former spokesman described a 'typical gammon' as, "baldness is optional, as are dodgy tattoos, and the uniform of the gammon is boot-cut jeans, loafers and an open-collared white polyester shirt." 

Such labeling has caused, not only widespread interest, but controversy, with some calling out the term as racist. 

Belfast South MP, Emma Little-Pengelly said that skin colour-based insults were wrong, tweeting,

Others, have defended its use. Mr Zarb-Cousin penned a piece for Huck Magazine titled, Is It Racist To Call White Men 'Gammon'?

"It isn’t racist to say someone looks like gammon," he wrote.

"While there are striking aesthetic resemblances across the gammon constituency, gammon isn’t a race, it’s a lifestyle choice driven by warm ale.

“It’s a state of mind, driven in no small part by a regular spoon feeding from the trashy tabloids.”

Head of Language Content at Collins, Helen Newstead, has respond to the debate, stating, “We’re not here to make judgments on whether it’s racist or not."

“This has been a year where awareness and often anger over a variety of issues has led to the rise of new words and the revitalisation and adaptation of old ones," she said.

“It’s clear from this year’s Words of the Year list that changes to our language are dictated as much by public concern as they are by sport, politics, and playground fads.”

While Britain grapple with the tone and intent of their slang, in Aboriginal-Australia, ‘gammon’ harks back to old Victorian lingo, when the word was used to describe ‘humbug or nonsense’.

Daniel Fisher of Macquarie University (Department of Anthropology) has written on the subject, outlining that colonisation lead to such terms being adopted in Aboriginal communities. He writes that over time it has gradually become 'affectionately revered as icon of an intra-Aboriginal public culture'.

Here is the Collins Dictionary 2018 'Word of the Year' list, including 'gammon'.