Of all the things that Brexit will or could possibly have an effect on, very few could’ve anticipated the effect that it would have on the words we use. Nevertheless, in a way that strangely hearkens back to Cavaliers and Roundheads, people are now referred to as Brexiteers and Remoaners. While the connection between Brexiteer and Brexit is mostly straightforward and easily understood, Remoaner is worthy of a little more explanation.
Breaking down the term itself, Remoaner is, like many modern words, a portmanteau of Remain and Moaner. Remain, while originating from the Old French remanoir and the Latin remanere, essentially means ‘to stay, or to continue to belong to’ and was first mentioned in Joseph Robertson’s 1857 work, Illustrations Of The Topography And Antiquities Of The Shires Of Aberdeen And Banff, repeating a 1388 work which stated: “To the part of this indenture remained to the forsaid Alexander.” As for Moaner, simply meaning ‘one who moans, a fault-finder or pessimist’, the root origins are a bit shady, with a link to an unrecorded Old English noun essentially meaning ‘a complaint’ being widely suggested; however, the usage of the term can be traced back to 1628, where George Wither’s Britain’s Remembrancer states: “It is not fit a Poet should be tied. Sometime he must be grave; lest else, the wise The mutter, or the moaner, may despise.”
Virtually everyone knows that today’s word is tied to the Brexit referendum, but in order to understand how Remainer became Remoaner, perhaps a little context would help. In the build-up to the referendum itself, the main “Remain” argument was – taking “Europe” out of the equation – that Brexit would mean uncertainty in a number of areas, such as laws, trade, investment, immigration, etc., which is almost always seen in a negative, debilitating aspect. We all know the result of the referendum, but, in the months that followed, the thin margin of victory mixed with the shock and (mostly political) indecisiveness which began to give impressions seemingly validating Remainer arguments goaded Remainers into continuing to vocalize and publicise their arguments, instead of simply accepting the referendum. It was this resumption of “moaning” over the possible pitfalls of Brexit that led to Remainers being labelled by pro-Brexit factions as Remoaners; however, given the widespread propagation and adoption of this term, nobody quite knows where it originated- aside from likely being soon after the referendum itself.
Only time will tell whether the so-called Remoaners are – as they see themselves – modern day iterations of Cassandra or cryptic modern-day representations of the Delphic Oracle’s response to Croesus – as Brexiteers see them.