- "Mr. Speaker, you have been demmed."
This is how Geoff Plant warned his colleagues in the British Columbia legislature last April about electronic "data mining." He argued that privacy, autonomy, and anonymity are being seriously compromised by global marketers who sort through ever-expanding spheres of seemingly harmless data to cluster people into various demographics - hence the word "demmed."
Not having an archive to a data-mine, I have no way of knowing whether Mr. Plant subscribes to the Utne Reader, or if he had seen a headline in its March/April 2000 issue: "The Beautiful and the Demmed, You are what you buy - wherever you live." But I do know it is in just such fashion that words eventually enter the accepted vocabulary.
First, someone uses the language creatively, even daringly, in an effort to communicate and possibly to entertain - then others, sensing a powerful and/or playful formulation, repeat it and keep it alive.
"Demmed" brings to the sometimes dry and dreary realm of demographics a certain zip and passion - not least because the sound is so easily associated with the words "hemmed" (as in "hemmed in"), "condemned," and most obviously, "damned." In fact, in this euphemistic sense, "demmed" is nothing new. It will be familiar to readers of the "Life and Exploits of the Scarlet Pimpernel," by John Blakeney, who used it liberally in the novel. "That demmed clever woman" and "That demmed elusive Pimpernel" are two chapter headings...