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Laymanizing the latest in lex

by Mellissa Martinez

It’s that time of year again, the end. As we look back and take inventory, how will 2012 be remembered? Was it ‘amazeballs’ or ‘bang tidy’? Did you ‘zoosh it up’ or was it filled with a lot of ‘squadoosh’? When it comes to summarizing such an eventful year, why stick with old, overused words when there are so many new terms at our disposal?

Those who love the cutting edge can thank Collins dictionary for some of the more colorful additions this year. At my house, our 3 favorites (and most likely to be used) are ‘floordrobe,’ a pile of clothes left on the floor of a room; ‘hangry,’ irritable as a result of feeling hungry; and ‘laymanize,’ to simplify technical information into a form that can be understood by ordinary people.

They also added ‘amazeballs,’ an exclamation meaning amazing; ‘zoosh up,’ to make more exciting or attractive; ‘squadoosh,’ a noun that means nothing; ‘bang tidy,’ something of exceptionally good quality; and ‘mommy porn,’ inspired by the naughty best seller Fifty Shades of Grey. Although some purists are protesting these additions as silly and potentially degrading, people at Collins have a different take on the matter. They explain that most dictionaries are static.  Relying on pop culture, science and technology, Collins editors choose to focus on emerging words that are in circulation. Even if fringe groups are using them, they’re worthy of consideration!

In contrast, Merriam-Webster is a bit more conservative in its word-admissions. This year, it legitimized ‘cloud computing,’ storing regularly used computer data on servers accessible through the Internet; ‘man cave,’ a room designed according to the taste of a man to be used for his personal hobbies; and ‘gastropub,’ a pub, bar or tavern that offers high quality food. The old word  ‘underwater,’ got a new meaning relating to mortgage loans and the expression ‘earworm’ is now the official term to describe that song that gets stuck in your head all day.

There are also some new compounds that are definitely not new. Although they were admitted into Miriam Webster just this year, ‘game changer’ was first recorded in 1993, ‘aha moment’ in 1939 and ‘energy drink’ in 1904. The dictionary also added ‘bucket list’ and the controversial ‘f-bomb.’ To be admitted into Miriam Webster, a word has to be firmly established in a variety of sources including books, newspapers, blogs, electronic media sites and magazines. Apparently, these expressions are now so well known that they can no longer be denied.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) offers an online flow chart detailing its word entry process. It uses a combination of user suggestions, editorial spotting and an automated analysis of large textual samples. From there, words are rejected or passed on to the next level. A potential new word is analyzed based on the following questions: is it limited to one small group (like teens or the tech savvy)? Is it likely to stand up to time? Is it a trademark? Does it have a broader use? Once a word is accepted, a full entry is drafted and circulated for editorial comment. The fruits of this labor are released 4 times a year.

So far in 2012, OED has added ‘date night,’ a prearranged occasion on which an established couple go for a night out; ‘ethical hacker,’ a person who hacks into a computer in order to evaluate its security rather than with malicious intent; ‘group hug,’ a number of people gathering together to hug; ‘guilty pleasure,’ something that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not held in high regard by others; ‘inbox,’ now a verb which means to send a private message or email (as in, “Hey, inbox me later”); ‘lolz,’ plural of lol, laugh out loud; ‘redic,’ short for rediculious, ‘mwahahaha,’ an evil laugh sound; ‘soul patch,’ a small patch of facial hair just below the lower lip; ‘tweeps,’ people who follow a Twitter feed; ‘sexting,’ the sending of sexually explicit messages by cell phone; and ‘Wikipedian,’ a regular user of Wikipedia.

In the UK, people are also likely to be using the new ‘shamazing,’ a combination of shazam and amazing and ‘omnishambles,’ a word that describes a perfect storm of bad management, blunders and bad luck.

Although many of these new words may seem redic to readers (lolz), it’s time to accept the inevitable— English is a productive language. It allows new nouns, verbs and adjectives. These words are now a part of English language! Remember, at one time, Yuppy seemed like a passing acronym and people could not imagine ‘motor’ and ‘hotel’ being permanently smashed together before 1924.

Rather than lament the change, I recommend the immediate incorporation of at least one new word into your 2013 lexicon. Perhaps a new year’s resolution is in order? I resolve, first and foremost, to keep my floordrobes in check! Secondly, I will lolz as often as I can. I hope to avoid hangriness by regularly frequenting Claremont’s new gastropubs and, as usual, I will try to minimize inappropriate f-bombs whenever possible. As for Lex readers, I wish all of you enjoy a truly shamazing year!

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