Another year passing means another mountain of neologisms. Whilst many will be relegated to the linguistic scrap heap a few no doubt will latch onto our vocabularies for years to come. The New York Times has compiled a list of the clever, the witty and the just plain ridiculous, of which I thought I’d share a few.
FRANKENSTORM The storm that hit the East Coast in October, a few days before Halloween.
GANGNAM STYLE The manner and attitude ascribed to the affluent Gangnam District of Seoul, South Korea. This term came to the attention of the world when the Korean pop star PSY released the song and video “Gangnam Style.” His signature “galloping pony ride” dance was the macarena of 2012.
NOMOPHOBIA Fear of losing or forgetting one’s mobile phone, or of being outside of the phone’s signal area. From no more (phone|phobia).
YOLO An acronym for “You Only Live Once.” Used as an interjection when someone is considering doing something risky or ill-advised. The expression took off this year after the hip-hop star Drake’s song “The Motto” became a hit in 2011.
I’m far from being a linguistic purist but is this the best we could do? Scrap what I said earlier. Hopefully when 2013 arrives we will all suffer a collective bout of amnesia and will never utter any of these words ever, ever again. What was your word of 2012?
Acronyms are found everywhere in the English language. Most people know what VIP (Very Important Person), SOS (Save Our Souls) and UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) stand for. Some acronyms no longer require knowledge of what the letters actually stand for though, as they have become words in their own right. SCUBA for instance, as in scuba diving, is an acronym standing for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Similarly the word radar stands for Radio Detection, and Ranging, and laser began as an acronym meaning Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.
The amount of acronyms used in everyday speech has increased in modern times because of technology like mobile phones and the internet. LOL (Laugh Out Loud) is perhaps the most well known of all ‘text speak’ acronyms. Below is a handy list I’ve compiled of ‘text speak’ acronyms so when your coworker says, LOL you don’t mistake their appreciation of your hilarity for a declaration of love (Lots Of Love).
With less than a week to go until the Olympics opening ceremony, there are plenty of foreign athletes arriving on our shores.
But what do the athletes know about London, and more importantly, can they decipher Cockney Rhyming Slang? Team USA have challenged their athletes to learn – and speak – the slang, with hilarious results! See some American athletes, including 400m runner Sanya Richards-Ross, gymnast Nastia Liukin and diver David Boudia take up the challenge in the video below.
If not, you might want to watch this informative video in which Hugh Laurie is quizzed on some American slang by Ellen DeGeneres. He doesn’t do that well… but then neither does Ellen when asked about some British slang!
Sheffield Springs academy has asked students to stop using slang whilst at school, in order to enhance their employability prospects. The school is in one of the most deprived areas of the city.
The United Learning Trust (ULT), a charity that runs the school, said the policy had been introduced so that pupils could recognise what kind of language was acceptable between friends and what would be suitable in more formal situations.
The school had an ethos that “the street stops at the gate”, said Kathy August, ULT’s deputy chief executive. Pupils were told to replace hiya, cheers and ta with good morning and thank you.
“We want to make sure that our youngsters are not just leaving school with the necessary A to Cs in GCSEs, but that they also have a whole range of employability skills,” August said. “Understanding when it is and is not acceptable to use slang or colloquial language is just one part of this.” (Source: Guardian)
Another school initiative asked sixth formers to wear suits to school to promote a professional attitude towards their work.
What do you think? Is saying ‘hiya’ really damaging employment prospects?
There’s not much sympathy to be had for banks or the people that work in them at the moment.
But language lovers will spare a thought for the loss of the lingua franca of the trading floor. Described as a mix of “Cockney rhyming slang, market banter and expressions picked up from horse racing bookmakers”, the slang is in danger of dying out because of the switch to electronic trading.
The language used by traders evolved because they spoke in person or over the telephone – it’s apparently not quite the same asking your computer screen for some “Bill and Ben” (Japanese yen). Other factors also come into play:
Many traders nowadays are recruited as university graduates with top marks from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and M.I.T., whereas 30 years ago aspiring youngsters with few, if any, academic qualifications often started as back office clerks and worked their way up to the trading floor.
Young London lads blessed with quick wits, common sense and ability to juggle numbers were often prized above those with academic laurels and went on to make fortunes as City traders.
“They were the ‘barrow boys’ coming off the market stalls. It was more working class and with that came the language of the street,” said one trader, who used to work alongside some dealers who also owned fruit and vegetable and flower stalls.
“In the early days of dealing rooms it was the City institutions and especially the British banks where you heard it. Now dealing rooms might be a bit more international and slang is dying off a bit.” (Source: Reuters)
Naval slang words and phrases are known as “Jackspeak”, and a collection of these has just been published.
It’s surprising how many of slang phrases have made it into modern English, including “running the gauntlet”. For the past 40 years one man has been collecting the words and phrases coined by the Royal Navy, which have been published in a new book. Rick Jolly OBE is a former Surgeon Captain in the Royal Marines who served in the Falklands War and was decorated by both the British and Argentineans for his service.
His years on board ship, both in the marines and later on cruise liners, have given him a passion for slang.
Part of its charm, he feels, comes from its exclusivity, because the terminology used is only understood by fellow naval comrades.
“For instance, this description of a crusty old sailor’s toothache needs some nautical knowledge, but then has a perfect and startling clarity: ‘Tis from the aftermost grinder aloft on the starboard side…’,” he says.
He believes the humour of nautical slang is an essential coping strategy for people dealing with the multiple uncertainties and dangers of war.
“During my own 25 years in a dark blue uniform, I had several opportunities to confirm that fact,” he explains.
“In addition, as a direct result of my misunderstanding of a term used by one of my Royal Marine patients, I set out in 1971 to make a new collection of slang terms.
“From the start, I tried to take each word or phrase in context, giving an example of its usage as well as a definition.” (Source: BBC News)
Some examples of Jackspeak:
“Green Death” – 3rd Commando Brigade, Royal Marines
“Snotty” – midshipman
“Order of the Golden Toecap” – redundancy
“Whitehall Puzzle Palace” – Ministry of Defence
Apparently there’s a new craze in London, and it’s to do with words. “Newlogism” is splicing together two unrelated words to make a new one (see what they did there?).
According to Dan Clayton, English language researcher on UCL’s Survey of English Usage, these words circulate very quickly because of the way people use technology (particularly social networking) but also disappear very quickly, with 80% of new slang words disappearing within a year.
Examples of newlogisms that you should know include “psycho-lists – those mad bikers ready to run over pedestrians with the temerity to cross the road”, “email courier …the time-waster who trots over to your desk across the office just to ask if you’ve seen their latest missive in your inbox” and “x-sessives… people who Won’t. Stop. Sending. Xs”. (Source: This is London)
And what’s a childibore? It’s a parent who won’t stop going on about their offspring.
An interesting piece in the Guardian looks at urban dictionaries (well, mainly at the Urban Dictionary). Whilst well-known print dictionaries like the OED can take years to update, urban dictionaries are on the web and can be updated as and when new words and phrases appear.
But, as the article suggests, there are issues with this:
“..slang expert Green’s problem with Urban Dictionary isn’t that it contains offensive words. “It’s amateur hour. They set themselves up as an authority and I don’t believe they are. There aren’t 2,000 new slang words a day – they don’t exist. It undermines the whole point of a dictionary. If you want to have something called The Book Of Amusing Words That Young People Come Up With, then fine, let’s have that. I’ll stick with [Viz comic's] Roger’s Profanisaurus.”
Over 3,500 volunteers edit submissions to Urban Dictionary – but there are masses of them. According to the article, “in the past 30 days 67,000 people wrote 76,000 new definitions”. As Jonathon Green points out, there can’t be that many new words created constantly.
One thing urban dictionaries do better than traditional dictionaries though, is to publish slang words and definitions, and keep them up to date. When the new OED is published (around 2037), many of the slang words we use today will likely have fallen out of favour. In the meantime, we can use Google or the Urban Dictionary to satisfy our curiosity.