tl;dr – A triptych that linguistically explore the neologism ‘Brexit’. Speaking to Dr Lisa Fountain about where it came from, how it’s developed and what it is now. Unknown, conflict and faith. Dawn, noon and dusk. Video shot looking back over at England from Europe.

This project began through a curiosity of how the word Brexit became a ubiquitous name for the act of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

To understand how the word came about and how it has semantically developed I met with Dr. Lisa Fontaine, a linguistics professor at Cardiff University in Wales. She had written a paper that studied the early development of the word from 2012 to 2015. She traced the first mention of the word back to a tweet from an account known as @britinfluence.

From this tweet she traced the use of the word and how its context had changed over the years. She found that the word had very little semantics when it was first coined and was often used in quotation marks and often with a explanation after it uses, such as "'Brexit': the United Kingdoms exit from the EU".

On the 22nd of February 2016, the EU referendum was announced to the public. From this date on the word began to change and take on new meanings as either side of the vote tried to claim it as their own and use it to their own advantage. The word effectively became a weapon.

The day after the vote, on the 24th of June 2016, it was announced that the United Kingdom had voted to leave the European Union. This political event had impact on the meaning of the word. The UK was now heading towards a Brexit that it could not foresee. It becomes a main priority of the government to convince the public to have faith in Brexit.

Together with Lisa, I mapped out the use of the word between the years of 2012 – 2017. The three stages that we decided were most appropriate were as follows:

  1. Unknown: 2012–2015
  2. Conflict: 2015–2016
  3. Faith: 2016–2017

From this framework, the video which was shot throughout the course of one day, at dawn, noon and dusk, acts as a backdrop to the conversations I had with Lisa. Her voice is selectively subtitled so that words that correspond with each stage show in the appropriate time of day. The video is shot from the coast of the Netherlands, looking back onto England.

Whilst this framework was created in 2017, I see little progress from the stage of faith. The crisis of leaving the EU is still unknown. Estimates and guesses are the defining principles that are govern the leaving process. Unfortunately, these judgements are made with little thought to the people on both sides of the argument and many will be left to suffer.