Time To Learn Some New Words!
We haven’t talked about words for a while. But that doesn’t mean that the language is in any better shape than the last time we looked. Partly because awesome continues to be the word of choice to describe anything and everything.
Anyway, language has been in the news recently because the Oxford English Dictionary has taken to announcing its new additions to the dictionary each quarter. I finally got around to having a look at the most recent additions and I found a lot of interesting items.
Sociologists tell us that narrative is important because how we say things reflects our underlying thinking. That’s why we have political correctness.
And speaking of narrative, did you know that “narrative” has taken on a new meaning? It used to only mean a story or account of events. But now it is used to describe the events themselves. “Aesthetic” is another word that has been co-opted. Instead of just meaning appreciation of beauty or describing an artistic style, it too, now means moods, feelings or things. As in “Chloe and Tyler got into a big fight at the restaurant because she didn’t like the aesthetic. I didn’t want to be part of that narrative so I left.”
But that’s not the important narrative woven into the list of new words. A good example of new words reflecting who we are is the large number of words on the list that are from foreign languages. Globalization means we are more widely exposed to other cultures and words that work well get readily adopted.
But if the words we use are an expression of who we are, we might be concerned that of the almost 200 words on the list, over 10% refer to food or cooking. And a lot refer to shopping or consuming. More on that later.
There are some interesting surprises as well. For one thing, there aren’t as many technology neologisms as there have been on past lists. And there are some totally legitimate made up words such as Flerovium and Livermorium. They are new elements that have been discovered. Now you know.
Another interesting thing is the words on the list that I thought would already be in the dictionary—like fine tuned and shoplifting. And what took jagoff so long to make the list?
There are some words that I don’t think are going to last into future editions of the dictionary. One example is Yoda, which means a smart person, expert or guru. Another is fuhgeddaboudit, which most people think was Tony Soprano’s go to word, but it was actually properly explained by Johnny Depp in Donnie Brasco which predates The Sopranos. Check it out here!
I’ve selected a few of the words on the list to share with you and to explore the narrative and aesthetic around them. So you too can get a feel of the state of English.
Biatch–n. This is supposedly used by people too polite to say “bitch.” I don’t understand the distinction, especially because the origin is rap music. For those of you who want to use it and its nuances, the Urban Dictionary informs us that the state of being a biatch is biatchitude. And exemplary biatchitude is known as biatchitudestein.
Balut–n. You don’t want to know. This word is both from a foreign language (Tagalog) and technically about food, although you might not agree. It’s a duck egg that is just about to hatch that is cooked and, er, eaten. Basically, its part egg, part duck. Use your imagination. It made the list because it’s a popular gross out food on reality TV shows like Fear Factor.
Bodoh–adj. Another foreign word (Malay) and one you will definitely want to use. It means stupid. Sian bodoh is a wonderful multilingual insult which has the huge advantage of probably not being understood by the person it’s directed at. Sian means boring in Hokkien so combined with bodoh it packs a nice one two punch. It also has a nice ring to it. Use it wisely.
Chefdom–n. A truly frightening cooking word. Or maybe it’s just bodoh. It means being a chef. If, like me, you think there are too many chefs and chef programs on TV, you are probably worried about all of chefdom banding together. Remember, they have knives. Lots of them.
Kindsa–? You know how you cringe when someone writes “I could of . . .” instead of “I could have?” Kindsa represents the elevation of that sort of thing as a word in the OED. If you haven’t figured it out yet, it means “kinds of” as in “Like, I’m so into all kindsa words.”
Non-apology–n. If the words we use reflect the way we think, be afraid, be very afraid. Meaningless apologies are now so de rigueur, that we need a word for them.
Shopaholism–n. See non-apology.
Shoppertainment–n. Times were, shopping was something you just did in order to acquire things. Now our attention spans are so short and we’re so bored that retailers have come to believe that we need “an entertaining in-store shopping experience” and there are consultants who specialize in helping stores with “experiential retailing.” I wonder if Black Friday shootings in the US qualify.
Skronk–adj. A term to describe music that is dissonant, grating or irritating. Why has it taken this word so long to find respectability in the dictionary considering how often it can and should be used? Also applies to some news reporters and radio announcers. Also an integral part of shoppertainment.
Squee–n, v. Essentially a squeal, usually of delight. I don’t know if this word came about as a result of text language because it’s easier to type than squeal or what.
Upcharge–n. A euphemism for paying more for something. Also known as “accessorial charges.” It’s a fancy way of saying you pay more for extra cheese on your pizza.
Vom–n, v. Like bodoh, I’m going to be using this one! Take a guess. It is short for vomit and is a wonderfully versatile word. As in, “there was vom on the floor after the party.” Or “I vommed when I saw that guy eating balut.” I like it because there was no need for yet another word for vom, but it’s always nice to have one.
This is but a small sampling of the new words in the dictionary. Have them ready when you do your Christmas shopping and buy all kindsa stuff. Watch out for the shopaholics who might be squeeing over the shoppertainment and don’t get upset by the skronking PA system or the biatch behind the counter who gives you a non-apology when you question the latest upcharge. Don’t buy any bodoh gifts and whatever you do, don’t vom if a chefdom tries to get you to sample some balut.