Brexit: What in a Name?

By: Aisha Braima

KHARTOUM (Sudanow.info.sd) - The die is cast ... and the ballots are cast.. and Britain is now outside the European Union.
But now is the question: Were the British voters really that disenchanted with the EU? Or were led by mistake into this decision?
Had the language used in the call for the referendum a role in the voters’ choice, or was it something else that led to this public decision?
For the purpose of this article we will concentrate on what we can call the role of the language in that decision.
Considering the language used in the call for the referendum one can notice that the choice of the term Brexit was lacking both in form and content. In fact it was persuasive for the public to choose the exit option.
Brexit! This compound word combines the two words .. Britain and Exit.. and nothing else .. no other option.
An ordinary voter receiving this expression might (naturally) tell himself: This is about Britain ..Well.. that is my Britain ..It is also the word that I always loved ..Britain.. Then he/she would look farther and see (and hear) the word ‘’Exit”. Then he might say: My loved Britain.. My Britain is going to exit from the EU ..to become our own once again.. Why should it not ? Who can prevent that? It is my decision ..I am going to be myself…My Britain!
If that was the way things have gone, and they might have gone so, the term Brexit might have from the early beginning said it all: Britain must exit from the EU.
Perhaps if a more neutral expression had been chosen from the very start, things could have changed...could have helped with a different vote ..who knows? But to tell the people that this is about Britain’s exist from the EU - as the expression can tell - might have had its influence on the voters’ choice…who knows?
This claim can be validated by what had happened after the vote result was announced: Google and Wikipedia search engines have said there was a rush in their websites from multitudes of British citizens looking for such information as: What is the EU? How it works? and what good (or harm) staying in it could do to Britain? And so on.
Brexit..Brexit ..Brexit .. the media used to hammer from the beginning .. Then later on and when the election campaign was in full gear came the words ‘’IN “ and “OUT’’ and the terms “ LEAVE” and “REMAIN” ..Wasn’t that rather late?
Now, can we consider the term Brexit a hasty choice that might have influenced the voters’ choice?
Hasty choice of words, ruinous as it is, is a characteristic of the international media, the British no exception.
In retrospect one can remember to have once been approached by a visiting British journalist ( a very young man) to give him access to data about the economy of Sudan. We readily took him to the archives of our publication and pointed to the economy section. After some time he came out with the conclusion: ‘’So Sudan’s is a ‘charity’ economy!’’ Asked why, he said whenever he looked into a file he saw a loan or grant agreement.
Here we asked him whether he had looked into the files on the industry, mining, agriculture and livestock (the biggest herd in Africa) and into files of Sudan’s other natural and human resources.
Our judgment was that this young journalist was in a hurry .. looking for a catchword or any word that can help with a headline… and this is very harmful , destructive in fact.
Hasty selection of words is galore in the international media.One can just remember that until the eve of the general referendum that led to the division of Sudan into two countries, Southern Sudanese never used the expressions ‘separation’ and ‘’independence’’. Instead they talked about things like ''attractive unity" and so on. But when an outstanding British news outlet (name reserved) started to use (in fact drum up) the expression “South Sudan’s vote for independence”, the international media (and the local Southern Sudan media) started to imitate.
Hasty choice of words, in addition to its being a sign of lazy journalism, can on many occasions be misleading. It could by putting the wrong words on the mouths of people who do not know, thus changing their courses of action and thinking.
A brilliant M.A language student in 2000 wrote a very thoughtful and interesting thesis about how a British news organization (name reserved) had contributed to the escalation of the civil war in Sudan simply by the words and expressions it used. Things like “ the war that pits the majority Christian and animist Southern Sudanese against the Arab Moslem North”. Judging by the 2008 population census Southern Sudanese are 35% Moslem and only 17% Christian. The rest cannot be called animist.. that bad word! The right thing could be to say that the rest is nobody’s land or any other thing! The researcher, who spent months counting such catchphrases and expressions, also examined the effect of this on the Southern public opinion. She found a big effect.. a very harmful one.
Now also look at how the International media portrays the brutal West African Koko Haram as ‘The Islamic Boko Haram’. Islamic in what way? Even a kindergarten child would not accept this senseless organization to be a religious group, let alone Islamic.
And if we can always judge groups by their original faith, we can also describe the brutal Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army as a Christian body, just judging by its claim (Christian) and its name (Lord’s).
Then why the hasty expression “Islamic’’ when describing such lawless entities as Boko Haram and the Taliban?
The answer to this question came from Britain. In a widely circulated video we have seen British Home Minister Theresa May shouting out at the top of her voice that: The ISIS is not Islamic !..The ISIS is not a state!
She is right! Islam is not like this.
The list of stereotype expressions used in the media is very long. It contains such misconceived expressions as ‘’fundamentalist Islam ’’ , ‘’radical Islam’’ a ‘radicalized Moslem-inter-alia' to refer to acts of rashness and bigotry committed by ill-advised Moslems.
In a nutshell, Islam enjoins the faithful to be as peaceful and devout as they can and not to attack unless when they are attacked.


The ideas contained in this article are the writer’s own and may not represent Sudanow.


Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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