Sunday, January 31, 2010

Awards: New Words

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Language is a dynamic system.  Words can lose favour and become extinct or remain in some archaic form, eg
The adage “the exception proves the rule” does not mean that the exception establishes the rule, which is nonsense, but that the exception tests the rule, the original meaning of "prove". That archaic meaning remains in its original sense in the words proving ground, meaning a military test site for weapons.
Who doesn’t cringe when they hear or sing the words to our national anthem “our home is girt by sea", a matter already mentioned in an Auistralia Day post.
The original wording of The Ode by Lawrence Binyan was “Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn..”, "contemn" meaning despise or scorn. These days the word used in The Ode is condemn.
At the same time, new words are continually being added to the language, not just in slang and colloquial expressions by young people but also in mainstream usage. These words may relate to technological developments, social events or just witty observation. Young people texting use a language all of its own.Which brings me to the point of today’s post.
Each year various bodies associated with language and various dictionary publishers announce their word of the year. At the same time they provide a list of words that have gained currency in the previous year or which have become established enough to be added to future publications of the announcer’s dictionary.
Following are some examples, past and present, it being interesting to see how words that are now common were once awarded new word of the year:
American Dialect Society Words of the Year 1990-2008 (2009 not yet announced)
1990: bushlips, similar to bullshit and taken from George Bush’s 1988 broken promise “Read my lips: no new taxes”.
1991: mother of all, from Saddam Hussein’s “mother of all battles”
1992: Not! Meaning “just kidding”
1993: information superhighway
1994: cyber, morph
1995: web
1996: mom as in “soccer mom”
1997: millennium bug
1998: e- as in e-mail
1999: Y2K
2000: chad (from the 2000 presidential election controversy in Florida, the chad being the piece of voting paper)
2001: 9-11
2002: weapons of mass destruction
2003: metrosexual
2004: red state, blue state, purple state (from the US 2004 presidential election)
2005: truthiness (popularised by a satirical TV program, The Colbert Report
2006: plutoed (demoted or devalued, as happened to the former planet Pluto)
2007: subprime (a risky loan, mortgage or investment)
2008: bailout (government rescue of companies on the brink of failure)

The Macquarie Dictionary has its own awards for new words. Some of their words I can easily relate to, especially password fatigue. Following are some past results. The 2009 winner will be announced in February 2010.
Word of the Year:
muffin top, the fold of fat around the midriff which, on an overweight woman, spills out over the top of tight-fitting pants or skirts. This seems to be an Australian creation which has spread around the world, carried on by the popularity of Kath and Kim. It made news in New York in 2005 and was one of the words nominated for the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year Most Creative section. It was pipped at the post by whale tail, the bit of the g-string or thong that shows above the waistband at the back of pants.
Honourable mentions:
affluenza, the dissatisfaction that accompanies consumerism as a path to happiness
plausible deniability, a carefully crafted situation in which a member of government can deny any association with any illegal or unpopular activities carried out by servants of the government in the event that these activities become public
Word of the Year:
pod slurping, the downloading of large quantities of data to an MP3 player or memory stick from a computer.
Honourable mentions:
infomania, the tendency to give immediate attention to incoming messages such as email, text messages, etc., resulting in constant distraction and a corresponding drop in the recipient's attention levels and work performance
carbon footprint, the carbon dioxide emissions for which an individual or organisation can be held responsible, as by their travel, fuel consumption, diet, energy requirements, etc.
People’s Choice Award:
password fatigue, a level of frustration reached by having too many different passwords to remember, resulting in an inability to remember even those most commonly used
Word of the Year:
toxic debt, a debt which, although initially acquired as a legitimate business transaction, proves subsequently to be financially worthless, as the subprime loans which precipitated the GFC
Honourable mentions:
bromance, a non-sexual but intense friendship between two males
textaholic, someone who sends an excessive number of text messages
guerrilla gardener, a person who plants gardens in areas controlled by councils or other organisations but neglected by them in terms of vegetation, as nature strips, roundabouts, council-maintained gardens, etc
lawfare, the use of international law by a country to attack or criticise another country, especially a superior military power, on moral grounds, that is, by accusing it of having violated international law
People’s Choice Award:
flashpacker, a backpacker who travels in relative luxury
The contenders for the 2009 awards from the various organisations and dictionaries include the following:
De-friend (alternatively: unfriend): removing someone from a Facebook list
Besties: a person’s best friends
Birther: a conspiracy theorist who believes that Barack Obama is ineligible for the Presidency of the United States, based on any number of claims related to his place of birth, birth certificate etc
Blamestorming: sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.
Bossnapping:  the practice of stopping executives leaving the premises when employees are protesting against job losses.
Cube farm: office filled with cubicles.
Death panel: rumoured health care proposals which would create government-sponsored “death panels” to decide which patients were worthy of living
Fauxhawke: a mini-Mohican hairstyle
Flairtending: flamboyant service by bar staff
Flash mob: a group of people who go to a designated public place for some sort of action
Freemium: an internet service which is mostly free, but which charges for premium content
Frenemy: a person who acts like a friend but is really an enemy
Hashtag: a # [hash] sign added to a word or phrase that enables Twitter users to search for tweets (postings on the Twitter site) that contain similarly tagged items and view thematic sets
Intexticated: distracted because texting on a mobile phone while driving a vehicle
Irritainmment: Entertainment and media spectacles that are annoying but you find yourself unable to stop watching them
Mash-up: a blend of two songs by a DJ
Mouse potato: the on-line, wired generation's answer to the couch potato.
Netbook: an extremely small, highly portable laptop used primarily for surfing the Internet
Ohnosecond: that minuscule fraction of time in which you realise that you've just made a BIG mistake. (Like after hitting send on an email by mistake)
Paywall: the point on a website where you have to start paying for content.
Percussive maintenance: the fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.
Prairie dogging: when someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube farm, and people's heads pop up over the walls to see what's going on.
Sexting: the sending of sexually explicit texts and pictures by mobile phone
Sitcom’s: Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage. What Yuppies get into when they have children and one of them stops working to stay home with the kids.
Staycation: holidaying at home to save money
Stress puppy: a person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiny.
Tweeting: the act of sharing thoughts and comments with a group of friends over the Net
Tweetup: an event which takes place on the social networking site Twitter.
Vlog: a video blog
Woof’s: Well-Off Older Folks.
Zombie bank: a financial institution kept afloat by taxpayer equity

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