New words a mixed blessing

Joyce Minor

Minor Musings

It is no secret that I love words. I'm always trying to learn new ones and find creative ways to use them. We all know that new words get added to our vernacular every year, and at least two or three of those become so widely accepted and understood they are officially added to our dictionary.

In fact, the media have begun to make those three or four new words a regular part of their year-end recaps. So, along with who died, who got arrested, and what governments fell during the year gone by, they also report on the new words coined. (Draw whatever conclusions you want from those associations. I'll refrain from adding mine.)

In the decade from 2000-2009 we added many words and expressions which now seem commonplace like:

Brain fart, a sudden lapse of memory akin to a senior moment but happening to persons of any age category,

Bromance, an unusually strong, close friendship between two men, neither of whom is gay,

Muffintop, which does not refer to the crown of a muffin, but rather the portion of a woman's middle that spills over the top of her hip-hugger jeans, and,

Mom jeans, denim pants which, unlike hip-huggers, ride at the normal waistline.

As I typed those new words, I noticed that my spellcheck program identified all of them (including the word spellcheck) as misspellings, which indicates that even software companies can't keep up with our rapidly changing English language.

So what new words have been added thus far in the 2010-plus decade? In just the first four years, the following have become commonly understood:

Easy peasy, which is cutesy shorthand for easy as pie;

Awesome sauce, the 21st century version of awesome, the most overused word in the English language during the 1990s when my kids were teens;

Yes way, the term we've all been waiting for, the perfect response to "no way," which is the ultimate expression of disbelief;

Selfie, a cell phone photo you take of yourself, alone or with others (President Obama is an expert at this);

Twerk, a crude and sexually suggestive dance (see Miley Cyrus for details);

Hashtag, a new name for the symbol #, which used to be called the pound sign or crosshatch, it evolved because of the symbol's constant use to separate an afterthought or categorization (there's a good word) from the main body of a tweet on Twitter.

And, before you say "shouldn't the words tweet and twitter be on the list?" the answer is no. Neither of them qualifies as a new word, but rather a new meaning or use for an already accepted word.

Now, I don't know about you, but I can't help noticing that all of the new words are quite short, at least in part because many are related to or have their origins in the world of technology where brevity is prized above all other considerations.

Guess that's why we're still waiting for my husband's long but favorite invented term "biodeplorable" to be adopted. If you've read my column from the start you may remember it. A handy one-word adjective for anything that's both disgusting and somehow related to bodily functions, biodeplorable was widely used in our family while our kids were growing up.

Examples? It describes what you might find on your shoe after walking in a dog park; the little gifts your cat coughs up; what lands on your windshield when the guy in the pickup ahead has had enough of his chewing tobacco ..

You get the idea. Feel free to adopt and use it liberally.