Chapulling

It’s not just the old words that have interesting stories to tell. New words, or neologisms, appear all the time and for a great deal of reasons, even political ones. One interesting word that has popped up in the last month or so is chapulling, a creation brought about by the recent Gezi Park protests in Turkey. In fact, we can put a pretty precise date on it: June 2nd 2013, when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the word çapulcu to refer to the protesters.

“We cannot just watch some çapulcu inciting our people. […] Yes, we will also build a mosque. I do not need permission for this; neither from the head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) nor from a few çapulcu. I took permission from the fifty percent of the citizens who elected us as the governing party.”

The term roughly means ‘looters, marauders, bums’, among other things, but was quickly re-appropriated by the protesters to mean: ‘to resist force, demand justice, seek one’s rights’, according to http://www.urbandictionary.com.

Since then, it has been loaned to other languages, including English, with the spelling changed accordingly. The term has since been used in the press, such as the Turkish Zaman newspaper, to refer to ‘Turkey’s Chapulling Movement’. But, perhaps most significant is the use of the word by the chapullers themselves. They have constructed a Chapulling Peace Tree as well as a YouTube video singing ‘Every Day I’m Chapulling’ to the tune of LMAO’s hit ‘Party Rock Anthem’, a catchphrase which has since been seen in graffiti and is even available on t-shirts for a reasonable £2.50. They have even renamed their protest camp ‘Chapulistan’. The word that was initially used to insult the protesters has, in fact, been ironically embraced by those protesters as a slogan and a feature of identity.

There’s no doubt that chapulling has really taken off as a word, but where will it be in years to come when the protests will be a thing of the past? Will the word stick around to refer to other, similar protests in the future? Or will it survive only in reference to those Gezi Park protests? Well that’s the beauty of language: it is unpredictable. No words are better than others and no words are more or less likely to stay in use than others. Words which might be on everybody’s lips one year could be completely forgotten by the next or they might just manage to hold their ground and live long, healthy lives. As for chapulling, I guess we have to just wait and see.

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