Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Helengrad is here

Since a talkback caller first used the word 'Helengrad' in a call to Lindsay Perigo's radio show just weeks after Helen Clark's ascension to power in 1999, after which Perigo picked it up and ran with it far and wide,  the term has entered popular parlance as a means of describing Clark's Wellington "in an attempt to mirror cities in the former Soviet Union named after rulers - Leningrad and Stalingrad."  Its usage is so widespread it has now been added as an entry in the Macquarie DictionaryDom Post story here [hat tip DPF]. 

Little wonder it's had such penetration, since in combining Leaderene's name with the Soviet-style suffix meaning 'town' the word so accurately describes the Clark regime set up in NZ's capital city.


TFR41 cover I wrote about the word's origins back in 2005, and as far as I'm aware it was my own cover story in the May/June 2000 edition of the Free Radical describing Clark's and Margaret Wilson's parliamentary hui on constitutional reform that first used the term in print.  (That's the story in its original habitat above right -- click to enlarge.)

On the day that particular Free Radical arrived in parliament with the words 'Helengrad Hui' and a condom-clad Statue of Liberty on parliament's steps pictured on the cover (above), Headmistress Shipley rose in Parliament accusing Clark of being "an interfering Minister of Everything and running a 'Helengrad' regime." The chamber fell about, and the name stuck - as unfortunately has the regime.

I believe the Herald's Fran O'Sullivan and then the rest of the world took it up about then -- it hit Australian shores later the same year in an article in The Australian called 'The Siege of Helengrad' -- and now Google boasts some 12,500 hits for 'Helengrad.' As Mrs Marsh used to say, "It does get in."

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