Throwing shade

It’s akin to the earth shifting beneath my feet, this constant change in the English language. It’s as though I built my editorial house on sand.

Of course language evolves. It has to in order to accommodate new discoveries, new technology, new ideas. I understand that. But when perfectly good words and meanings are corrupted because people are too lazy or too illiterate to honor the standards, the pillars, the foundations, it annoys me. More than it should. Yes, dammit, things should be done the way I was taught in school … some … 60 … years … ago …

Okay, so times change. I need to accept that. I need to go with the flow, face the brave new world with a smile, go along to get along …

Balderdash. I shall do it properly. If a LOL or a ROFL slips into my writing, well, hey, I’m hip. I’m cool. I’m with it. But don’t expect to hear “el oh el” or especially “oh em gee” in my speech. It makes absolutely no sense to pronounce the letters of the initialism OMG when “Oh my god” is also three syllables.

The Oxford Dictionaries prompted my outburst with yesterday’s announcement of the new words they’ve just added, with the excuse that, hey, somebody might need to look these up:

acquihire dox neckbeard
amazeballs e-cig olinguito
anti-vax FML pharmacovigilance
baller fratty pogonophobia
air punch hench side boob
bare hexacopter side-eye
bedroom tax hot diggity SMH
binge-watch hot mess spit take
brick hot mic subtweet
bro hug humblebrag trackback
catfish hyperconnected trigger warning
clickbait ICYMI vape
cord cutter in silico vax
cotch listicle WDYT
cray live-tweet YOLO
doncha mansplain zonkey
douchebaggery nailed on

On the one hand, I don’t think slang deserves to be legitimized in a proper dictionary; we’ve got the Urban Dictionary for that. On the other hand, there may be some value in listing a word for history’s sake, in case someday some historian wants to know what on earth today’s young people meant when they said “hench.”

I’ll admit some of these words have slipped into my vocabulary without my giving them a second thought. Why, just the other day I used doncha in a post, but I was fully aware it was slang; I was trying to lighten the mood. It’s obviously a contraction of don’t you. Why list it in a dictionary? Of course, I asked the same question back when ain’t was added to all the dictionaries. Heresy!

Granted, new technology requires new words to describe it, so I’m fine with e-cig and vape. I don’t like how slangy they sound, but I’m not likely to bother saying or writing “inhaling vapor from an electronic cigarette.”

For the record, and I’ve said it before, cray and cray cray as slangy, popular forms of crazy drive me absolutely cray cray. (Is cray cray one word or two? Dictionary, please … )

Not included in the article about the Oxford Dictionary, but stuck far, far down in my craw since I read about it last week (old news, but new to me) is knowing that several dictionaries have added “figuratively” as an acceptable definition of the all-too-commonly misused literally. So many people have misused literally for so long that the grammarians of the world have given up, given in, and acknowledged the misusage as acceptable. My old English teachers are rolling in their graves.

 



Categories: language

29 replies

  1. I’m still stuck on acquihire. Which, I must tell you, spellchecker thinks is WRONG! I must be an old fart.

    • I have mixed feelings about spell checkers. They are useful as a backup sort of thing, but you have to be very critical of their suggestions. I find the WP spellchecker particularly annoying because, while I can accept that it might not know a new word I’m using, it also won’t allow me to enter that word so it won’t bug me the next time I use it. Of course, if thousands of WP bloggers did that to the spellchecker that serves all of us, it would be a complete mess in no time.

      And for what it’s worth, I’d never seen acquihire before. So we’re two old farts.

  2. Here, Pied – take this one home and grade it tonight. http://i.imgur.com/zkYOH2e.jpg

  3. Publishing dictionaries is of course a business, albeit likely in decline because of the internet. When I mouse these new entries I note that an Oxford ad pops up with the answer. I suppose Merriam-Webster is their main competitor, one whom I settled on many years ago as the preferred source. I have their app on my iPad but interestingly they don’t seem to have one for my desk top. The one on my Mac shows a copy-write by Apple. Maybe that’s why. I wouldn’t have thought of them in that game.

    Language seems like school of anchovies, or a flock of starlings, with words as individual members. The mass moves like a living thing, but easily takes random directions, and there are always outliers at the edges of the mass. You can’t heard it anymore than rabbits, you just have to keep your eye on it and try not to get distracted by the outliers.

    Interesting additions, though. Some comments, FWIW. I don’t think “brick” will last long – technology moves too fast. Same for “hexacopter.” “Cotch” is too quirky and too British for this side of the pond. “Cray” might last – one syllable instead of two. “Mansplain” has legs – Shakespeare would embrace it, I think, because of its emotive content. Finally, there is “side boob”. I’m embarrassed – I had to look it up. WDYT?

    • Obviously dictionaries benefit from online form, where their capacity is virtually limitless. If all dictionaries were still in print form, editors would have to be more selective and might not give space to some of these words.

      Love your language analogies. So poetic. And very apropos.

      I agree that brick and hexacopter will probably disappear when the devices referred to disappear. And mansplain is sort of cute, if a bit condescending to men. And if you haven’t heard side boob, you haven’t watched enough TV. 😉

  4. I apologize in advance for returning to this. It’s a pet peeve. Someone said “Nothing is certain except for death and taxes.” The original source is in dispute, and he should be glad, because the dope forgot to include change. That hopey-changey thing, as Sarah Palin called it.

    Things change, all the time, every day, 24/7/365 and they always have, and they always will, and anyone who thinks change is bad is a fool. If things didn’t change I would be eating raw meat in a cave tonight, and I would NOT be happy. You have to roll with the punches.

    • The only constant is change. True. But just as not all change is bad, neither is it all good. I’d be the first to say our evolving language is a fascinating thing, and it’s wonderful the way it can adapt and accommodate anything. A love of language is one reason I ended up working in publishing in the first place. But it makes me unhappy to see inelegant, coarse, or crude slang and shortcuts making inroads and worse, being endorsed or legitimized by dictionaries and other authorities — a view probably expressed by elder generations for centuries.

      • I think the people change the language and the dictionaries reflect the people’s changes. The only arbiters of “correctness”, if there is such a thing, in speech and text are the ones doing the communicating.

        I don’t know why this always has been a sticking point for me, but it started in grade school and never went away. Maybe I have a few drops of Navajo blood.

  5. (What a great line: “Language seems like school of anchovies” – had to laugh)
    With the internet/international capacities on line/ so many TV channels, casual conversational language is changing at warp speed -(it used to be about yearly with the school calendar? Seems like each fall we “updated”….and berated textbooks for attempting to be cool with trendy phrases that quickly become dated). Business language is slower to change and more standard (not IT companies/and a few others)
    Guess language depends on who’s talking to whom and what about.
    (And people laughed years ago when I said in the future you would probably be able to make money writing for others if you had a good precise vocabulary, understood mechanics, sentence structure – and how to write logically, and persuasively…. scribes may be making a comeback as the slide continues?
    Lots to think about in this post

  6. I just wish you damned Yankees would go back to spelling our (English) words correctly instead of following that nasty Mr. Webster, and whilst you’re at it foreign words that are used widely; the words from the metric system springing immediately to mind. It isn’t hard to spell metre or litre correctly.

    If I was to drink a liter of liter beer in the USA would I be drinking a litre of light beer or a lighter light beer, something of the strenght of lemonade?

    It really does make me grumpy. It’s almost as if you were thumbing your nose at the rest of the world; sad really! 😦

    • Well, we had to change those funny English (British) spellings because we couldn’t figure out how to pronounce them. More phonetic spellings made more sense to us. After all, litre and metre look like two-syllable words.

      As for the beer, I can’t speak from experience, but I understand German beers are the best. Microbreweries are all the rage in the US now, and I’ll bet one or more of them has the perfect beer for you. Me, I’ll have some of that lemonade, please.

      Oh, and if you’re unhappy about our not adopting the metric system … just imagine how you’d feel right now if someone said you had to adopt our system. I can’t speak for others, but I’m not thumbing my nose. I’m just lazy and set in my ways.

      • We gave up your system some years back, we referred to it as the “Imperial System” 12 inches – 1 foot 22 foot (not feet) one chain 10 chain one furlong 8 furlongs one mile and they’re off and racing, I must admit that the Imperial system is great for racing but for anything else the metric is so much easier. That’s why we switched from pounds shillings and pence to the dollar. Which makes it hard to understand why you Yankees can’t adapt.

        You’ll probably remember some years ago NASA sent a space thingy to Mars and something went wrong and they lost the thingy. Apparently one group of NASA Boffins used metric and the other used Imperial. Seems like your rocket was miles/kilometres off course and got lost in space thereby providing TV with another silly show 🙂 🙂 🙂

  7. Geez. I’m really “without it.” The only word on that list I use, and thought I understood, is catfish. We once caught a few in streams and lakes near our family home. It’s a guess, but now it probably refers to a bottom feeding (beneath contempt) person, which makes some sense. But not much. Incidentally, despite their ugly appearance catfish are very good to eat.

  8. I have no issue with language continuing to evolve, but I dislike clumsy tacky words that lead to imprecise and ugly language. Yes, I’m old too… I only knew five of those words, and like your other commenter one of those was wrong as I thought catfish was referring to the fish.

“I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” ~ Cornel West

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: