One of the wonderful things about language is that it is constantly changing. The world changes; we invent new things that need names, so we make something up. We smash two existing words together, replace the first letter of a word with a different letter, or just completely pull something out of the air. Sometimes these brand new words don’t survive very long. They’re like little plants; some shrivel up, and some take root in the middle of the yard and just grow, no matter how much you try to stop them.
When the latter happens, there’s nothing we can do. We have to resign ourselves to our fate, dig in our heels, and add them to the dictionary. The following words have been added to Merriam Webster this year, and I thought a few of them required a little explanation, since not everyone sits around in the backyard (or on the internet) watching wordweeds grow.
:) To anyone who grew up without a computer, this combination of a end parenthesis and a colon is just punctuation. But if you’re wondering why it’s used by people all over the world every day, tilt your head toward your left shoulder. It’s a smiley face! Someone sending an email to a friend might use it to convey their tone. Since they’re not talking on the phone, their friend can’t hear whether they’re sad, angry, or amused, and a phrase such as “Like that’s going to happen!” can leave them wondering how they should feel. Tossing a little smiley face on the end of a sentence lets the reader know that the writer was smiling while sharing their thought, and that they should smile, too. The term emoji is “borrowed from Japanese, literally, ‘pictograph.’”
|This chart of emoji was included in an interesting article about art and psychology on wired.com.|
I shadowed a copy writer at my local newspaper once for a high school class and learned that coming up with the right headline for an article is an art form. Some news articles speak for themselves; no one is going to turn away from a piece headed with the words “MAN WALKS ON MOON.” Others require a little... help: “Single Mom’s Simple Weight Loss Trick Shocks Scientists!!!” A headline like that makes the reader mildly interested; if they were holding a newspaper, they might turn to page A5, but on the internet, they click on it. Newspapers don’t make you sign up for their service before you can read an article, but some websites do, and most likely a headline like that would take you to one of these. You’d have to give up your email address, make up a password, and click a link in a verification email before you were able to read the article you clicked on, and at the end of the rigmarole, you might forget why you started down this rabbit hole in the first place. Headlines that make you so curious you don’t mind jumping through the loops of a website that’s going to constantly bombard you with advertisements are called clickbait. Beware.
|This photo (which accompanied an article on clickbait) was found at baekdal.com.|
Have you ever been looking through old vacation photos from 1993 and spotted someone you didn’t know milling around in the back of the photo? You and your family are standing there in front of a pretty rock at Garden of the Gods and there, in the edge of the picture, is some guy in a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. He may have innocently wandered into the shot, but… what if he didn’t? There was no word for jumping into a picture for the purpose of mischevious amusement in 1993, because back then every single person did not have a camera/computer/telephone in their pocket. Today, there are a lot more pictures being taken, and a lot more opportunity to leap in front of your cousin while she is taking a picture of herself. We call it a photobomb.
There are so many more words growing in the world (and on the internet) today! Maybe they’ll eventually make their way into the “official” books, joining other gems such as jeggings, meme, and eggcorn, or they may die an early death. Either way, this is definitely an interesting time in the history of language.
|Some wordweeds, sadly, die an early death. This Mean Girls gif is from a cool blog called Lord of the Nerds, at the end of a piece about why that movie is so awesome.|