I may sound like a panjandrum (a word that rear-ended me the other day) because I’m not a huge fan of neologisms. Some of these recent words seem to be arriving by the truckload. It’s one thing to say ‘nonversation’ and ‘hangry’ — at least they mean what they sound like. But when did staycation and mansplaining become OK? Who comes up with this stuff? The Atlantic ran a piece that sheds some light on it.
There was a time when we had to explain (geeksplain?) what webinars, and dongles, and hashtags were. [Webinar, let’s face it, is a horrible word that should have been excommunicated with words like optics and more recent ones like spreadneck. Never heard of the latter? I’m glad.]
As for that Dongle? This was the name for that device you had to stick into your computer when you needed Internet access abroad. What an obtuse word! Hotspots probably severed our connections with the dongle world. We have other things we still plunge into our ports: thumb drives, also known as flash drive, USB drives, or stick drives.
Did you know that smellifungus is not what it sounds like? It would be perfect for describing the bacterial residue in your gym socks, but unfortunately it describes a person — a super-annoying whiner who bickers about inconsequential things. It’s female equivalent is someone social media labels a Karen.
Language, you see, is a collywobble, especially across the culturescape of english language speakers. We make things up — and repeat them — as we go. A breve, served at coffee shops in Tempe, Arizona could mean nothing to a tea drinker in Haputale, Sri Lanka which serves delicious kahata — a word that could flummox any tea drinker in Kensington palace, whether or not she uses the word flummox, which showed up in Tolkien.
Neologisms like kerplunk and digerati are all over the place. I recently heard that based is supposed to mean what teenagers in the Grease era considered cool. My daughter tells me that she abhors the term spinfluencers which is a subset of influencers, that wacky Insta label for people once known as ‘thought leaders.’) WIRED just ran a cover story on micro-influencers, and nano-influencers, so there may be a whole new species out there about whom I know diddly-squat.
By the way, panjandrum is one of those delightful made-up words from 1755 with a humorous origin. Webster’s best explains it here.
This story was also posted to Medium.com