With investigations underway by Congress and by a special prosecutor into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, many media outlets have started using the phrase Russiagate.

This is the latest in a long line of other “gate” scandals in government, sports and entertainment.

During the Bill Clinton administration, there was the Travelgate controversy when the president fired the entire travel office staff. Bridgegate was the name for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration closing traffic lanes to the George Washington Bridge as political retribution for not getting an endorsement from a New Jersey mayor. 

In sports, the New Orleans Saints were punished and coaches suspended for Bountygate when they rewarded defensive players for injuring opposing players. The New England Patriots are responsible for two gate scandals. During Spygate, coaches illegally videotaped opposing team’s signals. Deflategate was named for quarterback Tom Brady directing equipment staff to deflate footballs during the 2015 AFC Championship Game. (As a Bills fan, I think the Patriots deserved punishment for both – and that could be a whole other blog post.)

So, “gate” has become a suffix meaning scandal. Here’s the thing, though. It shouldn’t be.
The link between “gate” and scandals began, of course, with Watergate during the Richard Nixon administration. This scandal got its name because it all started with the 1972 break-in of Democratic National Committee offices located in the Watergate office complex. 

This was named for the offices, not for a water scandal.

Thankfully, Webster’s Dictionary has not yet succumbed to the common usage and altered its definition of the word gate. It still means “an opening in a wall or fence” or “a means of entrance or exit.”

It is well past time to put an end to “Wordgate” and for the media and others to stop using the word gate as a suffix or a synonym for any scandal. The word scandal works just fine on its own. 

What do you think? Does using “gate” make a scandal easier for the public to understand?


Thank you for visiting my blog. Please see my recent post about the relevance of AP style.