#LochMess: A hashtag identifying the scandal involving 12-time Olympic swimming medalist Ryan Lochte, who, along with three of his U.S. teammates, claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro the night after their gold-medal performance in the 4 x 200 freestyle relay. Brazilian police investigators later determined that Lochte had lied about the incident, and that the four Americans had vandalized a gas-station bathroom while drunk and had been confronted by security guards demanding payment for damages. Lochte later repented publicly without exactly apologizing (he said he should have been “more careful and candid” in his description of the incident); on August 21 he told the Today Show’s Matt Lauer that he had “over-exaggerated” the story.
In social-media commentary, the incident was at first hashtagged #LochteGate, following the tried-and-true pattern for scandal nomenclature that originated with Watergate, the name of the hotel that housed the Democratic National Committee headquarters during the 1972 presidential campaign. Then, on August 18, Laya Maheshwari suggested an alternative.
The new hashtag, a pun on Loch Ness – home of the perennially elusive Loch Ness monster – combines the first syllable of Lochte’s surname with mess, which more accurately connotes the shifting narrative than any suffix suggesting “scandal.” What’s more, the monster, mythical or not, is a swimmer like Lochte. Well played, Laya Maheshwari!