Word Spy Blog

Tag Archives: neologisms

Words That Turn Twenty in April, 2016

In honour of Word Spy’s 20th birthday earlier this year, throughout 2016 I’m highlighting words that are celebrating their own 20th birthdays.

Here’s a list of words that were coined (or have an earliest citation) in April, 1996:

n. Computer technology that uses biometric sensors to detect physical characteristics that relate to moods and emotions; the computer simulation of moods and emotions.
Earliest citation date: April 27, 1996
n. A car dashboard used as a drum.
Earliest citation date: April 24, 1982
pp. Marking up a public sign to correct or point out a grammatical error or typo.
Earliest citation date: April 20, 1996
n. An activist who supports or lobbies for laws that ban infant circumcisions.
Earliest citation date: April 30, 1996
adj. Having a one-word name.
Earliest citation date: April 12, 1996
n. A form of entertainment in which a person acts out scenes from a movie while a silent version of the movie plays in the background.
Earliest citation date: April 22, 1996
n. Movies that are not very exciting or interesting, but that one feels one must see because they are educational or otherwise uplifting.
Earliest citation date: April 17, 1996
n. A sport in which a person is strapped inside a large sphere which is itself held inside a larger sphere by a cushion of air, and then rolled down a hill or along the ground.
Earliest citation date: April 21, 1996

A Really Really Long Poem About Everything

For your muppet-armed delightion this week, a hodgepodge of semicolonectomized neological inventiveness.
Words Spied
adblockalypse n. The predicted demise of online advertising due to the increased consumer use of ad-blocking software. (ad-blocking + apocalypse) [Campaign]

brogressive n. A white, privileged male who ostensibly supports progressive causes and ideas, but who is reluctant to act in ways that might undermine his privilege. [The Guardian]

inculator n. A firm that helps startup companies nurture their ideas and grow their business. (incubator + accelerator) [Devex Impact]

Lampshadinglampshading pp. Wearing thigh-high boots with a baggy top or miniskirt (thereby creating a look that resembles a lamp with a shade). [EllePhoto: Womensforum

mincome n. A guaranteed minimum income for all citizens. (minimum + income). [Saanich News]

muppet arms n. A physical manifestation of extreme happiness. [Twitter (@BookRiot)]

yeo-person nJocular gender-neutral job title to replace “yeoman.” [The New York Times]

Word of the Week
semicolonectomy nThe removal of one or more semicolons from a piece of writing.

In the paragraph above, you could perform a semicolonectomy, replacing every semicolon with a period.
—Allan Metcalf, “Sidestepping the Semicolon,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 6, 2016

Cruft* of the Week

delightion n. The state of being delighted. [The New York Times]

“Poorly built, possibly over-complex; generally unpleasant” —The Jargon File.

Quick Links

18 Words Californians Gave the English Language [LAist]

The dumbest rule in the AP Stylebook [Baltimore Sun]

J.R.R. Tolkien’s guide to inventing a fantasy language [Quartz]

Shakespeare’s linguistic legacy [Oxford University Press]

Sidestepping the Semicolon [Chronicle of Higher Education]

Why both I and me can be right [The Economist]

Word of the Day: Stumped [The New Yorker]

Quote, Words, Unquote
Don’t you love the Oxford Dictionary? When I first read it, I thought it was a really really long poem about everything.”
—David Bowie

Where Were We?


With this edition of Word Spy’s Monday newsletter, I “hop” back into the swing of things to talk about bunnies, bros, snark, the “internet,” and the type of people who point out grammar errors. Absolutely no gobbledygook.

Words Spied

acroname n. A name that is the acronym of a longer name. [Deseret News]

bunny market n. A stock market with no discernible trend (i.e., one that “hops” around). [Wells Capital Management (PDF)]

double celling n. A form of isolated confinement in which two inmates are housed in a single cell. [The Marshall Project]

megaboard n. A massive billboard. [Spacing]

snarkenfreude n. Snide pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. (snark + schadenfreude) [Terrible Minds]

Word of the Week

grammo n. A grammatical error. (c.f. typo)

Less agreeable participants showed more sensitivity to grammos than participants high in agreeability, perhaps because less agreeable people are less tolerant of deviations from convention.
Julie E. Boland and Robin Queen, “If You’re House Is Still Available, Send Me an Email: Personality Influences Reactions to Written Errors in Email Messages, PLOS One, March 9, 2016

''
“Less agreeable participants showed more sensitivity to grammos…”

Cruft* of the Week

bro-liferation n. The increased prevalence of young, aggrieved white men. [The New York Times]

* “Poorly built, possibly over-complex; generally unpleasant” —The Jargon File.

Internet vs. internet

It was a big deal (in certain circles, anyway) this past week when the AP Stylebook announced it would sanction the all-lowercase form of internet beginning June 1. The backlash was swift and furious (see, for example, the Slate article in the Quick Links, below), but this argument isn’t new. In fact, I wrote about it in IEEE Spectrum way back in 2004 when Wired magazine announced that it would be lowercasing internet. Here’s an excerpt from my column:

But then there’s the “distinct entity” argument: yes we’re all used to the Internet’s existence, but it still seems different somehow. Its not an amorphous quantity like the word television implies (as in, everything on television stinks); and its not a natural phenomenon, like the atmosphere. The Internet is a specific, man-made thing with a unique place in our world.

Ah, I hear you say, but so is the power grid, and nobody writes this phrase as Power Grid. True, but theres an always-on everywhereness to the power grid (recent blackouts notwithstanding), and this mainstream quality makes the all-lowercase spelling feel right. Maybe thats the meat of the matter. When (not if) the Internet becomes as ubiquitous and as unnoticeable and as mainstream as the power grid, perhaps then we’ll come naturally to writing internet.

Are we there yet? Let me know what you think.

Quick Links

A Million Little Boxes (FiveThirtyEight)

Forget being ‘ghosted’ — have you ever been Frankensteined? (The Guardian)

The AP Stylebook Will No Longer Capitalize Internet. What a Shame. (Slate)

The Great Transmogrification of Atoms to Bits (Me in IEEE Spectrum)

The Gobbledygook Memo: Rhodri Marsden’s Interesting Objects No.106 (The Independent)

Shrill voice of Oxford Dictionary shows grating gender bias (Sydney Morning Herald)

Quote, Words, Unquote

“When a term is so devastatingly apposite as gobbledygook, it walks unquestioned into the vocabulary.”
—Eric Partridge, Chamber of Horrors: A Glossary of Official Jargon Both English and American,  A. Deutsch, 1952

The New Words of the Year

I’m pleased to (finally) announce the Word Spy “Word of the Year” and other neological awards for 2015.
Word of the Year
feardom nThe state of living in fear or being subject to laws and policies based on fear. (entry)

Honorable mentions:

manspreading n. The act of a man sitting with his knees spread widely apart, particularly when this crowds people next to him or prevents someone from taking an adjacent seat. (entry)
gig economy n. The economic sector consisting of freelancers who take on a series of small jobs, particularly when those jobs are contracted online using a website or app. (entry)
Neologism of the Year§
JeSuisCharlie hashtag An expression of support for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom from terror, particularly as a reaction to the January 7, 2015 terrorist attack on the French publisher Charlie Hebdo. (entry)

Honorable mentions:

dudefussing ppMaking numerous small, needless adjustments as a pretense of effort, particularly by a man. (entry)
legacyquel nA movie that continues a long-running franchise, but with a younger actor taking over the lead role. (entry)

§ This applies only to words that were coined in 2015.

Cruft* of the Year

scanlation n. The pirating of a foreign language comic book or similar graphic work by scanning the images and then translating the text. (scan + translation) (entry)

Dishonorable mentions:

substition n. A fact that many people do not believe. (entry)
coworkation n. A working vacation spent in or near a facility that offers a shared office environment for independent workers. (entry)
* “Poorly built, possibly over-complex; generally unpleasant” —The Jargon File.
Most Fun New Word
goat cheese curtain n. An imaginary boundary that separates urban sophisticates from those with simple, traditional, or uncultured tastes. (entry)

Honorable mentions:

sockmageddon n. A long or intense struggle with washing, folding, or pairing socks. (entry)
argumentum ad tl;dr n. The fallacy of supporting a proposition by inundating one’s opponents with specious arguments that are too numerous and too lengthy to read, much less refute point-by-point. (entry)
sea-lion v. To intrude upon an online conversation in an attempt to engage opponents in debate, particularly by using a tone of feigned civility. (entry)
Snark of the Year
hipster paradox n. The tendency for people who assert their individuality using deliberately anti-mainstream dress and grooming to end up all looking very similar, thus becoming the new mainstream. (entry.)

Honorable mentions:

condesplaining pp. Explaining in a condescending way, particularly from a point of view of power or privilege. (entry)
dadbod n. A male physique characterized by a slight flabbiness, undefined musculature, and a noticeable beer belly; a man who has such a physique. (entry)
Most Likely to Succeed
manspreading n. The act of a man sitting with his knees spread widely apart, particularly when this crowds people next to him or prevents someone from taking an adjacent seat. (entry)

Honorable mentions:

swatting n. A hoax that involves phoning police and providing false information that causes the dispatch of a SWAT team to the hoax victim’s home. (entry)
weedery n. A business that sells medical marijuana. (entry)
Least Likely to Succeed
FOGOn. The fear of going out, particularly if one is tired from previous socializing; the desire to not attend a popular event that is over-hyped or over-commercialized. (entry)

Honorable mentions:

Kispang number n. The maximum distance a person could run at the average pace used by Wilson Kipsang while setting the marathon world record. (entry)
bridechilla n. A bride-to-be who, while planning her wedding, remains calm, relaxed, and easy-going. (entry)
The Facepalm d’Or
selfeet n. A photo of one’s shoes or one’s bare feet. (entry)

Honorable mentions:

mirdle n. An undergarment designed to give a man a slimmer appearance, particularly at the waist. (entry)
uni-moon n. A vacation taken separately by each person in a newly married couple in lieu of a honeymoon. (entry)
Most Useful
gig economy n. The economic sector consisting of freelancers who take on a series of small jobs, particularly when those jobs are contracted online using a website or app. (entry)

Honorable mentions:

eavesread vTo surreptitiously read the text that another person is reading or writing. (entry)
winterregnum nA pause or interruption in a continuous activity during winter or caused by winter weather. (entry)
Most Unnecessary
solitudinousness n. A state or condition characterized by solitude. (entry)

Honorable mentions:

demisexual n. A person who only feels sexual attraction in the context of an emotional or romantic relationship. (entry)
virch n. Colloquial shortening of the phrase “virtual reality.” (entry)
The Weep for Humanity Award
walking ATM n. An illegal immigrant or migrant worker who is frequently robbed because they have no bank account and so must carry all their cash. (entry)

Honorable mentions:

stingray n. A device that spoofs a cellular network tower to identify and track mobile phones. (entry)
fracklog n. Gas or oil that is ready to be fracked, but remains in the ground pending higher petroleum prices. (entry)
The Apocalypse Is Nigh Award
Uberization n. The conversion of existing jobs and services into discrete tasks that can be requested on-demand; the emulation of the Uber taxi service, or the adoption of its business model. (entry)

Honorable mentions:

droneport n. An airport or hub designed for or dedicated to drones. (entry)
food swamp n. An area that has an abundance of fast food restaurants and other low-nutrition food options. (entry)
The WTF? Award
death cafe n. A social gathering where people discuss death while having a meal or a drink. (entry)

Honorable mentions:

monogamish adj. In a monogamous relationship, but with a mutual agreement that allows occasional infidelities. (entry)
cuffing season n. Late fall and early winter when single people seek exclusive relationships to help them get through the coming cold months. (entry)
Tongue Twister of the Year
biononymity (by.oh.non.IM.uh.tee ) n. The quality or state of having one’s biological data anonymous or private. (entry)

Honorable mentions:

amatonormativity (uh.MAT.oh.nor.muh.TIV.uh.tee) n. The legal, cultural, and moral privileging and promotion of the romantic couple as the highest form of human relationship. (entry)
solitudinousness (sawl.uh.TOO.din.uss.nuss) n. A state or condition characterized by solitude. (entry)

Ever Closer to the Machine

Greg Mably

With apologies to Thoreau:

If we do not get out smartphones, and forge social networks, and devote days and nights to the work, but go to tinkering upon our lives to improve them, who will build devices? And if devices are not built, how shall we become a brand in season? But if we stay home and mind our business, who will want devices? We do not ride on the devices; they ride upon us.

I have taken liberties with this famous passage from Walden because my latest column for IEEE Spectrum is now online and it includes a nod to the great man. It also covers words related to wearables, including nearables, hearables, earables, and the oh-so-creepy baby-wearables (“a soft, flexible sensor at the belly button area,” coos one brand).

Last Week in New Words – Je Suis Charlie

Hipsters, hashtags, beats, gluten, and the unloved Internet await you in this week’s collection of what’s new in neologisms.

Words Spied

Let’s begin with a few new words and phrases that I spotted last week:

beat deaf adj. Unable to follow or keep time to a beat. [AudiologyOnline]

glutenophobic adj. Having a strong, possibly irrational, aversion to gluten. [Wordlady]

hipsterocalypse n. The destruction of civilization as we know it due to a catastrophic overabundance of hipsters and hipster culture. And beards. (hipster + apocalypse) [Twitter

sad Internet n. Items posted or published on the Internet for public consumption that are never read, viewed, listened to, liked, favorited, or funded. [Yahoo! Tech]

Word of the Week

#JeSuisCharlie hashtag An expression of support for freedom of speech and freedom from terror. [Twitter]

This hashtag and the original French phrase “Je Suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) have become the most visible symbols of the remarkable displays of defiance and solidarity that we’ve seen in France and around the world in the wake of the attack on the offices of the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo on January 7. Twitter has said that the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag has been one of the most popular in the company’s history, with more than five million tweets posted in the first 36 hours. (It’s still going strong, with nearly 1,000 tweets being posted in the time it took me to write this entry.)

The hashtag began on January 7 with a tweeted image by artist and journalist Joachim Roncin showing just the words “Je Suis Charlie” on a black background (see below). A few minutes later the French student Thierry Puget retweeted the image along with the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, and a powerful catchphrase was born.

Je Suis Charlie, by artist Joachim Roncin

Cruft* of the Week

traitriot n. A person who betrays his or her country for patriotic reasons (traitor + patriot). [Tribune-Review]

* “Poorly built, possibly over-complex; generally unpleasant”
The Jargon File.

In Praise of the Hashtag

Last week, the American Dialect Society named the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter as their Word of the Year for 2014. As with many things in the linguistic realm, reaction immediately formed into two opposing camps: “I hate it because a hashtag is not a word” and “I love it because it’s bold and brave and of course a hashtag is a word.”

Having just chosen a hashtag as the Word of the Week, you know where I’ve pitched my own tent. First, we can discard the “hashtag is a not a word” argument easily enough. Many existing English words are the result of compounding, where two separate words combine to create something new. Grandmotherlifelike, and threefold are all perfectly acceptable words created by compounding. Although some hashtags are single words, most are formed by combining (that is to say, by compounding) two or more words into a single lexical entity — what linguists, bless them, like to call a “vocabulary item” — preceded by the hash sign (#). [Update: As a recent column in the Economist points out, a more serious objection to treating a hashtag such as #BlackLivesMatter as a word is that it’s often used as a clause, as in “We want justice because #BlackLivesMatter.” However, as the column also shows, people quite often use #BlackLivesMatter as a noun, thus qualifying it as a thing-in-itself and eligible for wordhood.]

But a hashtag is more than just a few words smushed together. Like any good neologism, a good hashtag becomes a verbal shorthand for a larger idea. You could write “I support freedom of expression and freedom from terror in the wake of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo,” or you could write #JeSuisCharlie. You could write “I believe that every woman has had some experience of being harassed and even attacked physically and mentally by men,” or you could write #YesAllWomen.

The danger, of course, is that we use hashtags as mindless slogans or that they fail to take into account subtle distinctions and nuances. For example, if you support freedom of the press but despise the type of satire published by Charlie Hebdo, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie might be too blunt of an instrument for you. If that’s the case, there’s always the hashtag #JeSuisCharlieMaisJeNeSuisPasCeCharliePublie (“I am Charlie but I am not what Charlie publishes”), but now the instrument has gone from blunt to unwieldy. However, note that  #JeSuisCharlieMais (“I am Charlie, but…”) is popular right now with people who have reservations over what Charlie Hebdo publishes, thus providing a good middle ground and showing the flexibility of this new and welcome facet of the language. #LongLiveTheHashtag!

[See the hashtag entry on Word Spy]

Quick Links

Why We Should Declare an Emoticon of the Year

To the dictionary’s class of 1914: happy birthday!

Our New Year jargon guide: The words we’ll miss in 2015

These business buzzwords will define 2015

Mich. man invents word for ‘nieces and nephews’

What do you call a group of word nerds?

Close Quote

[2012] was the year when the hashtag became a ubiquitous phenomenon in online talk. In the Twittersphere and elsewhere, hashtags have created instant social trends, spreading bite-sized viral messages on topics ranging from politics to pop culture.
—Ben Zimmer [American Dialect Society]