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The Independent Online
A fortnightly update on new words, compiled in association with Chambers Dictionaries

Will the Prime Minister manage, this week in Blackpool, to stamp the authority of "Majorism" on his party's policies, or has the tide turned irrevocably in favour of the "Blairites"?

In other words, what does it take to establish yourself as an eponym? Dictionary compilers keep a close watch on the effects of political fashion on language, but the decision on whether to include words such as "Majorism" and "Blairite" in a dictionary often demands a greater measure of forecasting skill that may fairly be expected of a lexicographer.

"Majorism" has already made it to the Shorter Oxford, where it is defined as: "The political and economic policies of the British Conservative politician, John Major." This seems a curious example of the coinage of a word preceding the concept it is meant to describe.

The first criterion for a good eponym, of course, is an appropriate name. "Majorism" and "Blairism" trip easily off the tongue, unlike "Prescottery" or "Heseltinitude". (Though "Heselteenies", for supporters of the deputy PM, has been spotted more than once).

Kenneth Clarke started the wordification of Tony Blair when he accused him of "Blairing away" on 12 March 1993. The first citation of "Blairism" in Chambers' database comes from the Independent on Sunday on 17 May 1994.

Our own database of British newspapers traces the earliest appearance of "Blairist" to 8 June 1994, with "Blairite" following a week later.

We also found a reference to "Blairi No 2" which is not, surprisingly, a synonym for John Prescott, but a name given to a species of rose in 1993.

But will "Blairism" and "Majorism" outlive the political careers of their founders and establish themselves as words in their own right?

There are only a few cases of similarly formed words that have done so. "Marxism" must be the prime example, with "Churchillian" not far behind. But in more recent times, there is only one such word that has established itself in the language. "Maggiolatry", first spotted last April, may not make it to the dictionaries, but "Thatcherism" seems set to last.

From the beginning of this year, our database includes 30 citations of "Blairism" and 18 of "Majorism". "Thatcherism" however, beats them all at 289.

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