2011-07-14 / Sam Bari

Learning to communicate in 2011

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

Every year about this time, the Googlamaniacs, our crack team of researchers, take nanoseconds out of their busy schedules as Internet gamers to enlighten us with the annual list of new words in the English dictionaries.

The wordsmiths at Oxford and Webster have deemed these additions essential to the English lexicon. Many have been in use for years, but didn’t make the offi cial cut until recently. This is not the entire list, just the most interesting or ridiculous words, terms and phrases that have been accepted as legitimate communicative tools.

Many have origins in urban jargon that are the results of misspellings, improper usage of traditional words, and terms coined in the advertising industry that have become part of the language due to frequency of use.

Examples of the latter are shining demonstrations of how close to illiterate we can be. For instance, many people believe the proper spelling of the word describing the little cakes with the holes in the center that we eat with our morning coffee is “donut.” Somehow, the word “doughnut” ceased to be a real word. We can thank Dunkin’ Donuts for that catastrophe.

Another is Kleenex. Many are not aware that Kleenex is a brand name for a tissue paper product.

Modern English has been around long enough for one to think that the only new words the language might need would come from developing technology. However, that is not the case. Many new words come from laziness, inability to spell, and the penchant of urban street people to create code words esoteric to unsavory lifestyles – but not always.

Here are a few. Judge for yourself.

Blamestorming: People sitting in a group discussing why a project failed or a deadline was missed and who could be blamed. They are said to be blamestorming.

Cube farm: An office filled with cubicles.

Prairie dogging: People are said to be “prairie dogging” when their heads pop up over the walls in a cube farm when there is a disturbance or argument and they want to see what’s going on.

Salad dodger: An excellent phrase used to describe an overweight person.

Swamp donkey: An extremely unattractive person.

Tart fuel: Bottled premixed spirits, regularly consumed by young women.

Frenemy: A person who disguises him or herself as a friend but is really an enemy and is not to be trusted. This term was introduced several years ago but it apparently wasn’t accepted until last month.

Defriend: To remove a friend from a social networking site.

Bromance: A close non-sexual relationship between two males. What happened to “buddy” and “friend?”

Fashionista: Someone who keeps up with the latest clothing trends. The term was most likely coined by red carpet or fashion show television commentators.

Staycation: A holiday spent at home in order to save money. A necessary term for a failing economy.

Mocktail: A non-alcoholic cocktail. Sounds more adult than “Shirley Temple.”

Pescatarian: Someone who doesn’t eat any meat other than fish. What happened to piscivorous?

Chillax: To completely relax.

Salmon Day: The experience of spending an entire day virtually swimming upstream only to ultimately die or have the day end disastrously.

Testiculating: Waving your arms around and talking contemptuously or defiantly.

WAG: Abbreviation for wives and girlfriends.

Absent from this list are the plethora of abbreviations and acronyms that have resulted from Internet IMs (instant messages) and texting on cell phones. Terms like LOL (laughing out loud), BRB (be right back), and OMG (oh my god) comprise the majority of the 1,500 plus words that were added to the dictionaries so far this year.

Although the terms themselves are not particularly new, and are certainly not inventive, they have become a vital part of our new methods of communication, as the numbers of characters allowed in electronic messages are limited.

Besides the limited number of characters, inputting data on the tiny QWERTY keyboard on cell phones is laborious at best. If necessity is indeed the mother of invention, then an Internet or electronic communication shorthand is absolutely necessary for everything from IMs to text messages, especially if efficient use of time and data are concerns.

The Internet inspired the new slang, a word that has an unwarranted stigma. Slang is the continual and ever-changing use of words in informal conversation, a necessity for developing cultures.

The esoteric slang and terminology introduced by the advent of the computer age adds color to the complexities of life in a system we can’t understand.

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