Since 1990, the American Dialect Society has paid homage to the most sublime creations of each year: the new and popular words and phrases that grace our lexicon. The words of the year have included “metrosexual” (2003), “subprime” (2007) and “tweet” (1998). Many other words from the computer age have featured prominently in categories such as “most useful” and “most likely to succeed:” “blog” (2004), “google” (2002) and the prefix “cyber” (1994).
My favourite neologisms, however, deal with irreverent new usages as listed by the American Dialect Society. Here, in alphabetical order, are examples from the most ‘euphemistic’ and most ‘outrageous’ categories.
Badly sourced – Employed by Colin Powell and others to mean “false.” Bumper Nutz – Fake testicles hung from the rear end of a vehicle.
Cliterati – Feminist or woman-oriented writers or opinion leaders. Controlled flight into terrain – Defined as a “crash with a good pilot and a good plane.”
Crotchfruit – A term designating a child or children. This expression seems to have been inspired by the term “fruit of one’s loins” and began as a word used by proponents of child-free public space, but has since been adopted by some parents as a jocular term for their offspring. Extraordinary rendition – The deportation to a country that might receive a person unkindly through the use of torture or other unpleasantries. Fish pedicure – A cosmetic procedure in which fish eat the dead skin off the feet. Food insecure – Said of a country where the people are starving. Florida flambé – Fire caused by Florida electric chair. Gate rape – Pejorative term for the invasive new airport pat-down procedure. Grid butt – Marks left on the buttocks by fishnet pantyhose. Holistic practitioner – A prostitute. Internal nutrition – The force-feeding of prisoners against their will.
Jesusland – The country which will be the rump USA after the blue democratic states have seceded and joined Canada. Muffin top – The bulge of flesh hanging over the top of low-rider jeans. Partner reduction – Divorce or severing of a romantic relationship. Pre-emptive self-defense – An attack made before a possible attack. Scooping technician – Person whose job it is to pick up dog poop.
Sea kittens – Fish, as coined by PETA. Starter marriage – A first marriage not expected to be the last, akin to a starter home. Sudden jihad syndrome – An outburst of violence from a seemingly stable and normal Muslim.
Symmetry failure – Surgery performed on the wrong side of the body, as in, “OMG, they took out the wrong kidney!” Otherwise known as wrong-site surgery. Thought showers – This term was coined by a British city council because the synonym brainstorming was said to be offensive to epileptics. Torture-lite – Characterization of American treatment of prisoners of war; torture short of blatant bodily harm. Transfer tube – A container or the transfer of a corpse, previously referred to as a body bag. Truthiness– While Pontius Pilate asked Christ Quod est veritas?, two millennia hence one might ponder “What is truthiness?” In its 16th annual Word of the Year vote, the American Dialect Society voted truthiness as the word of the year. This term was popularized on the Colbert Report, and refers to the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. As Stephen Colbert put it, “I don't trust books. They're all fact, no heart.” Unorthodox entrepreneur – A panhandler, drug dealer or prostitute in a Vancouver park. Whizzinator – A trademarked urinating device using a realistic prosthetic penis and synthetic urine in order to pass a drug test.
The word of the year festivities for 2010 were held in Pittsburgh on Jan 7th and the winning word was “app,” the abbreviated form of “application,” a software program for a computer or phone operating system.
Howard Richler is a Canadian language columnist. He wrote the weekly Speaking of Language column in The Montreal Gazette from 1992 to 2006 and his Word Nerd column has appeared since 2006 in The Senior Times.
Howard also regularly writes for other newspapers and magazines, including Globe & Mail, and National Post, and the legal magazine Lexpert. He has appeared on countless radio and television shows, including All in a Weekend, Pamela Wallin Live and Richler Inc.
In between all this, he has written seven books
The Dead Sea Scroll Palindromes
Take My Words –A Wordaholic’s Guide to the English Language
A Bawdy Language – How a Second-Rate Language Slept Its Way to the Top
Global Mother Tongue – The Eight Flavours of English
Can I Have a Word With You?
Strange Bedfellows: The Private Lives of Words.
His book From Happy to Homosexual and other mysterious semantic shifts was published by Ronsdale Press 2013 and his latest book Wordplay:Arranged and Deranged Wit was published by Ronsdale in April 2016.