The BBC has announced that Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended after punching his producer. Only, that’s not how the BBC Spokesperson announcing the news described it. No, Jeremy Clarkson was announced to have been suspended after being involved in a “fracas”. And so Google searches for the word exploded.
The definition given by Google upon a search for “define:fracas” is
a noisy disturbance or quarrel.
and it is described as
early 18th century: French, from fracasser, from Italian fracassare ‘make an uproar’.
One thing’s for sure, it’s not a word you hear everyday, and certainly doesn’t leave a person thinking “Holy crap Jeremy Clarkson punched his producer!” Perhaps that was the aim, in which case, the term may have backfired as the oscurity of the word simply meant people begged to know what actually happened. If it were an argument, they’d have said so, by saying fracas, we were just left confused and wondering. It was a word that screamed of “we don’t want to talk about it.”
And so, according to Google trends, this is what happened when the headline pushed itself onto the front page of every British news source you can think of.
Geek Scot decided to take a little look at Google Ngram viewer. This tool tells us how often a word has appeared in publications since the 1800s. The word Fracas made a bit of head way in the 1940s, right where the paper back industry was taking off and talk of war encounters were high, and started to die out again in the sixties but in the new millenium it has started to climb in usage again. It is a term though that probably has seen more usage this week than it has in the past century. Is it time for fracas to make a return to a common vocabulary? Hell no, but let the fracas memes begin!