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Mon 24 June 2019
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(v.) to spill a liquid messily over something

You know we’re well into some kind of political End of Days scenario when the resignation of the Prime Minister comes a mere 24 hours after an election we still don’t know the results of, and 48 hours after a headline reading, “Nigel Farage trapped on Brexit bus due to people armed with milkshakes.” 2019 really is like one long game of Hold My Beer.

Things got off to a bad start this week for Mr Farage when, on Monday, he arrived in Newcastle to drum up support ahead of the EU elections only to find himself doused in what the press diligently identified as “a banana and salted caramel milkshake bought from Five Guys.” Ushered back to his Brexit battle bus, he retreated south to continue his election campaign back on home turf. But on arriving in Rochester, Kent, alas Mr Farage ended up marooned on the upper deck of his bus as an imposing mob of perhaps as many as “a couple of guys” holding iced coffees assembled nearby.

Despite this also being the week that, y’know, a 23-year-old neo-Nazi began a life sentence for plotting to murder a Labour MP, it was the milkshake that took the lion’s share of the headlines—in part, admittedly, because Mr Farage’s is merely the latest in a series of right-wing milkshakings.

Before him, it was UKIP’s human embodiment of barrel-scraping, rape-joke-defender Carl Benjamin, who found himself on the receiving end of the same lactic treatment while campaigning in Cornwall. And just a few days ahead of him, it was former EDL leader and current MEP candidate Stephen Yaxley-Lennon—aka Tommy Robinson—who was unceremoniously milkshaken while campaigning in Warrington.

It might come as some comfort to find that in these deeply divided days that this milkshaking trend has been condemned by all sides of the great political divide. Change UK’s Anna Soubry, for example, labelled it “unacceptable” and “unjustified,” while the DUP’s Christopher Stalford struck a cheerier note on Twitter by predicting, “Milkshake today. Acid tomorrow.” And even today—with Theresa May this morning making her tearful resignation speech outside of 10 Downing Street—the great milkshake debate rumbles on. Just as you might be starting to hope that things surely can’t get any more bizarre, suspicions are currently emerging that an octogenarian Brexit Party campaigner, who reportedly had a milkshake thrown over him while sat outside a polling station in Aldershot, might have faked the attack.

All of which brings us neatly to the Word of the Week: spleiter, an obscure and long-forgotten dialect word meaning “to spill a liquid messily over an area.”

Etymologically, we’re likely dealing with little more than a local corruption of spatter or splatter, or else some uncomfortable combination of the two—but semantically at least, there’s more to report here. As well as a verb, spleiter can also seemingly be used as a noun referring to a blotch or patch of spilt liquid; by extension, a drenching wind-driven shower of rain or snow; and, perhaps in the sense of something randomly or unpredictably shaped, a confused crowd or messily huddled bunch of people. And with the Tory leadership hopefuls now assembling on the sidelines, there’s a good chance that last definition might make this next week’s word too.

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