Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Legitimacy of Words

During a downtime or lunchtime - I'm not sure which - this past week, I skimmed an article on new words that had been added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this year. I love that the process is described almost as a hunting expedition; something exotic and slightly forbidden. Like a safari. Merriam-Webster's Peter Sokolowski speaks of reading through various materials just looking for new words. Or better yet, looking "for words in 'their natural habitat for real evidence of the language in use.'" These words are selected for their frequency and new meanings and show how our language and the meaning of words evolves from the concrete to the abstract; from the literal to the metaphorical. So what fierce, fearsome, and worthy trophies did this safari of words return this year?

aha moment n (1939) : a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension [Oprah Winfrey's signature phrase] She's conquered television, magazine publishing, is a national and international icon. And now she has her signature phrase in the dictionary. I guess this answers the question, "what do you get for the woman who has everything?"

earworm n (1802) 1 : corn earworm 2 : a song or melody that keeps repeating in one’s mind ["this summer's example being the inescapable Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen."] — You'll notice 1802 listed in parentheses here. That would be the original entry in the dictionary. You know, when it actually referred to an actual bug. It was curious that it took several "next" pages on a Google search to get to a description of the earworm bug. As in ugly hatching larva bug. Prior entries introduced DJ Earworm and information on how to get earworms (that awful repetitive song) out of your head. Take your time. And when you figure it out. Call me, maybe.

f-bomb n (1988) : the word fuck — used metaphorically as a euphemism — What can I say about this that was not captured in my August 14th Facebook post? And on the emo coaster it's time for a brief, but steep dip into the "want to kick something" territory. Looking to rebound soon on this roller coaster ride. Am somewhat cheered to learn that Webster has officially added f-bomb to the dictionary. It really bothered me that I wasn't official while being inappropriate. What would Dr. Horrible say? "Sarcasm - how original." Yeah. I know.

flexitarian n (1998) : one whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish — I "love" (oops! sarcasm again) this one because it's so America 2012. What is this? "I'm totally committed to being a vegetarian and everything is stands for. Except when I want bacon." What? We want it all and we want to commit to nothing. Or is that we want to commit to everything, but we want nothing? We're afraid to be accountable. To be pinned down to one thing. To say, yes, this is what I believe. I look around and I see so many people (nameless, faceless people - don't worry, I'm not talking about anyone I know personally. I wouldn't do that? Would I?) who want everyone to be equal and happy and to believe the same thing and do the same thing and think the same thing and hug the same thing and eat the same thing …. Do you get where I'm going? I believe in taking a stand and making a stand for things you believe in. In your politics. In your spiritual life. In your morals. In your eating habits. Whatever. But pick something and stand for it. And allow other people to do the same thing (even if you don't agree with them). But stand. Don't flex. If you don't stand, it doesn't mean anything. And then, what's the point?

life coach n (1986) : an advisor who helps people make decisions, set and reach goals, or deal with problems — Mainly I'm curious to know if being in the dictionary legitimizes this profession enough that I can get business cards that will allow me to coach life. Ask around. I'm fairly experienced. In numerous areas of life that require serious survival skills. And I haven't seen much else beside that and gumption that allows someone to be one, so ….

tipping point n (1959) : the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place — I've had a few of these in my life. And I love them because they are serious game changers (btw, also another entry in this year's word list). The tipping points in my life have always taken me away from something or someone that was crushing my soul; wringing the spirit from me; and sending me into a spiraling tailspin. They have always been difficult. There have been points in the tipping where I have felt that I was thrown (not tipped) down the side of a ravaged cliff and that I was hitting every rock, bump, and bramble on my way down. And yet there has never been a tipping that has not eventually right-sided me as a stronger, sturdier, smarter person with more faith and endurance than before the falling down.

Interesting words on the list this year. There are more, of course. These are just a few I'm offering up. You can find more here at The Atlantic. Don't forget. Words matter. They follow us. Live with us. Grow with us. They tell our story. Go on a safari to find some new words. Words matter.

PS - Although I am of age. Well above age. I still feel the need to write a brief and public note of apology to my mother for the whole f-bomb thing. For including it. And admitting that I actually say it. Out loud. I love you mom. And I love that you love me. Anyway.

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