LAST WEEK, SENATOR Fidelma Healy Eames hit headlines when she spoke before an Oireachtas committee discussing the responsible use of social media.
Notoriously, she referred to the term ‘fraping’, defining it rather confusingly as “where you’re raped on Facebook”.
As well as in the Irish media (and a number of viral videos) her comments also won coverage on several international tech sites. And here’s the surprise: several of them didn’t appear to have heard the word ‘fraping’ before.
Widely-read internet culture site The Daily Dot headlined the story “Irish senator coins worst buzz word ever: ‘fraping’”. The writer explained the word to readers as “having your Facebook account vandalised by pranksters and friends.”
Reporting Healy Eames’ comments with tongue in cheek, HyperVocal told its readers that “the innocent Facebook-loving children of Ireland are being “Fraped” [...] by their friends”, linking to Urban Dictionary for the definition.
And Technology Tell also felt the need to clarify the Senator’s remarks, explaining: “She seems to be talking about people posting sexual messages on a Facebook page, or perhaps hacking someone else’s account.”
So has Fidelma Healy Eames given the word “fraping” to the world?
Well, here’s the thing. The term itself has been around on this side of the Atlantic for a few years at least. It’s been included in the UK-based Collins and Macmillan dictionaries since 2011, and Macmillan posted an extensive explainer in August of that year which noted:
Some people find it a really offensive way to characterise an activity which could so easily have been described in other ways, and, at worst, argue that it in some way trivialises the horrific crime of rape.
But the term doesn’t seem to have extensively made the leap to the US and other countries.
And where is the biggest concentration of people using the word? According to Google Trends, over the past 12 months the answer is… you guessed it. Ireland. The nearest competitor isn’t even close.
(Well, actually we’re second to Croatia – but there, the word means ‘smoothie’.)
So we’re among the biggest users of the term, and it’s now gaining international attention thanks to last week’s discussions. Does this mean Ireland has accidentally boosted the word ‘fraping’ onto the global stage?