In the 15th century, Italian Renaissance priest, scholar, and humanist philosopher Marsilio Ficino wrote the following in a letter: “In these times I don’t, in a manner of speaking, know what I want; perhaps I don’t want what I know and want what I don’t know.” If ever there was a quote to define the current state of Brexit negotiations, this could be it.
Some hawks in Parliament want a clean break from the EU. Some doves in Parliament want a soft break with the EU – if they even want a break with the EU at all. Conversely, a substantial portion of the centrists don’t quite know what they want; however, they don’t like the plans of the 2 extremes. Meanwhile, regardless of political stance or which side of the Channel they’re on, people and businesses are experiencing the fallout of political gridlock. Demonstrating the beautiful versatility and creativity of the English language, today’s word, a portmanteau of a portmanteau, is the manifestation of that fallout, Brexiety.
Combining Brexit and anxiety, the point of today’s word is to convey the anxious feelings experienced by Brexit opponents- or, considering today’s political climate, Brexiteers, as well – in the wake of the referendum result.
Being nearly 3.5 years after the UK’s referendum on European Union membership, virtually everyone is familiar with the term Brexit, which is a portmanteau, or a linguistic blend of words, of British and exit first used by Peter Wilding on a 15 May 2012 blog post on blogactiv.eu entitled: “Stumbling towards the Brexit: Britain, a referendum and an ever-closer reckoning.” To this understanding was added the term anxiety, which is ‘the worry about something with an uncertain outcome’ that was first used in a translation of Thomas à Kempis’ Christian devotional book De Imitatione Christi (The Imitation of Christ), mentioning: “No anxiety, blissful joyousness, sweet company and pleasant to behold.”
Unfortunately, though Brexit can be targeted to a specific origin, Brexiety can’t, though it can safely be assumed that the term came into being shortly after the result of the referendum, making it less than 4 years old.
While the origin of our term may be unknown, the impact behind the term is well known. Going beyond those who simply had hoped for a different referendum result (aka Remoaners, another Brexit term), today’s term initially applied to the legal and economic stress/anxiety that entities who had a distinct connection to the UK as well as the EU were experiencing by being in a “grey area”, such as EU citizens who are long-time residents of the UK not knowing their legal status and small and medium enterprises which had operations in Europe and the UK not knowing which regulations to follow.
Regrettably, due to the lack of a workable agreement between both sides, indecision in Parliament, and media sensationalism, Brexiety seems to be worsening instead of improving. For UK businesses, uncertainty about the lack of a plan causes worries about tariff rates and continental supply chains, which translates into companies not spending or investing money, which can easily tip the scale into a recession. As for the people, what used to be seen as just an issue affecting a small minority of expats living in the UK and EU has now become a multi-issue, make-or-break deal, where it is seemingly hopeless for an outright majority to agree on every aspect, thus creating division and sowing distrust. Seemingly, there’s plenty of anxiety for everyone.
So, for better or worse, it seems as if today’s word is something all sides will be dealing with for the foreseeable future.