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Word of the Week: ‘shutdown’


We take a closer look at the words and phrases that are trending online and in the media. This week: ‘shutdown’.


This week’s Word of the Week is an ode to Skepta – and to his never more topical grime song, Shutdown. Why? The US government shutdown has hit its fifth week and gained the status as the longest in US history. ‘Shutdown 2019’ has quickly become a ‘breakout’ term on Google Trends and a buzzword on Twitter.

This all comes as President Trump marks his two-year anniversary in office, and while he spends his days tweeting, pouting and stamping his feet, families of state workers – who have gone without a month of wages – are struggling to make ends meet. And all because Trumpy’s not allowed to build his $33 billion wall.

Hard Times

‘Shutdown’ as a noun was first used in 1888 and is defined as: ‘the act of closing a factory or business or stopping a large machine from working, either temporarily or permanently’. The majority of definitions scattered across the internet emphasise the word’s connection to factories – a likely nod to its conception late in the Industrial Revolution.

And what does the Industrial Revolution bring to mind? Dickensian squalor, pollution and gruelling capitalism at its finest, which is interesting as, after all, isn’t Trump (and his pal Kanye) on a mission to lead a manufacturing resurgence in America?

Other definitions point to ‘shutdown’ as simply meaning: ‘the turning off of a computer system’. With the US government at a stalemate, has anyone tried turning it off and on again?

In its verb form, the word ‘shutdown’ has a more sinister meaning: ‘of fog – to descend and envelope’. Perhaps a fitting definition considering federal workers in the US are relying on food banks and coupons.

As the verb suggests, this shutdown, and its now historic linguistic relation to Trump, is beginning to disperse a cloud of thick, black, enveloping, smelly Dickensian fog over America – and President Trump’s ever-waning legitimacy. In the wise words of Skepta, “boy better know when it’s shutdown”.