I’m happy to acknowledge there are many new words introduced to the English language each year which may not sit quite right, but regardless enter the lexicon having earned their place. Perhaps the new word reaches momentary heights or even blessed notoriety only to be usurped by the next it word or phrase which comes along and sweeps us off our colloquial feet.
Take one of Macquarie Dictionary’s 2012 Word of the Year contender’s, the rambunctious cuprocking, for example. While at first it might suggest one’s futile attempts at successful beer-carrying at a music concert, it actually means something more fad than universal – the art of placing plastic cups in wire-mesh fences to create a design. Words like this, while often containing an obvious used-by-date, do little to dilute the language. They’re harmless and expendable. Maybe they’re even a little cheeky, like fellow 2012 WOTY contender dilligaf, aka acronym ‘do I look like I give a fu*k?’. Inconsequential little harmless words which drop out of use just as easy as they dropped in. Fine, fine, fine.
Then there are words like frape, another 2012 WOTY contender in Macquarie Dictionary’s ‘internet’ category, defined as the following:
Frape. 1. (Verb) gain access to (someones Facebook page), either by hacking it or because it has been left logged on, in order to alter it without their permission, as by changing photographs, links, personal details, etc., or by making false posts; done as a prank or as a malicious attack. 2. To subject (a person) to such treatment of their Facebook page. (Noun) 3. Such an attack on someone’s Facebook page.
[F(acebook) + rape] -fraping, noun -frapeage, noun
This is a word I consider neither inconsequential nor harmless. Unfortunately, simple web searches to learn more about the word when I first saw it did little to quell my own concerns with its etymology. Expecting to be confronted with a slew of articles challenging the legitimacy of the word on inappropriate grounds, I instead found a number of surprising precedents for its use (as well as a lot of misspellings of Frappé, the beverage, incidentally). Most concerns about frape I came across on the internet were lost amid a sea of eager adopters, and a number of comments I read made it clear how skewed the argument for the word’s adoption could be.
Of course, some people argue it’s just a bit of clever word play and I’m sure these folks would find frape right at home in the ‘rape jokes are fine’ camp. Others claim frape has nothing to do with the definition of rape as sexual violation. The main defence of one such argument I came across centred on how frape was not a joke about rape if it was used to refer to the definition of rape as in ‘to pillage/despoil’, suggesting linking the word to the definition of rape as sexual violation was out of context. Well then. Surely this can be fairly simple to test: the definition more frequently applied in common use. Are users of the word generally using it to refer to rape as in to despoil or in the context of rape as sexual violation?
Facebook pages I searched dedicated to the encouragement of frape sealed it for me. On one group’s page, the violent overtones inherent to the ‘rules of frape’ spelled out for potential Facebook hackers left little doubt which definition had been adopted. I saw posts where victims of such pranks complained of hacks where status updates were of a sexual nature. Another page, promoting itself as a frape victim support group, didn’t even try to hide its mockery of rape support groups in its introduction: “all those who have been fraped – there are others who have gone through the same pain and suffering that you have – you are never alone!”
Still not convinced? Just consider these direct quotes from one of the page’s posts:
“Hi, I’m …. and I was Fraped last night (pause to sniff pathetically).”
“Just reliased im [sic] a frapist!!!”
“I kept getting told it wasn’t my fault but I can’t help thinking I’m to blame.”
It’s beyond a stretch to suggest any of these fit with the rape definition ‘to pillage/despoil’ in my book. But perhaps it’s just me, you might say. Indeed, frape doesn’t seem to have encountered too much opposition in its short history, as far as I can tell. The biggest story I could find opposing its use was this.
Still, I’m sitting firmly in the frape is not funny camp. I don’t think it should be a word of the year contender, or that it even deserves being elevated to the Macquarie Dictionary category of ‘internet’. If anything, it’s a word with a view to being included as a form of cyberbullying.