Have you found your Googlegänger?

January 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm (Uncategorized)

Last week I had a rather feisty conversation about the regenerative nature of language  – about new words that hover over the mouth of English and breathe life into it.

There were raised voices, the occasional thumping of a fist on the table, and more than one Bloody Mary refill to ease us through the debate.

I love how passionate people get about language – well, my kind of people!

Take a look through a dictionary of obsolete words to gauge just how many gems we’ve lost. I would personally fight for the return of elucubration, writing by candlelight, as one such example, though the enigmatic unbepissed (not having been wet with urine) quite frankly just brings up one too many questions.

I spent some time today delving into my trusty dictionary; the final chapter dedicated to emerging words has always fascinated me. New words, called in linguistic terms neologisms, are collected and housed at the end of the book until deemed to be officially part of the English language, or alternatively until they disappear. Here are some Collins Dictionary entries that had just emerged in English in 2005, the year my dictionary was published:

Alpha geek: the person with the greatest knowledge of the office computer system.

Adultescent: an adult clinging to youth.

Blurker: one who lurks on a blog, but never comments.

Coulrophobia: a fear of clowns.

Chugger: charity mugger, or one who stops you on the street to ask for charity donations, often aggressively.

Doga: yoga for dogs.

Mucus trooper: one who comes to work even when sick and risks infecting others.

Ostalgie: nostalgia for the former East Germany.

Some of these neologisms ‘stick’, and a few years down the track are officially included in the revised edition. Others, well, they sink to the bottom of the well…though anyone who’s been ‘chugged’ would argue a strong case for that one to remain!

Those words that unfurl their bedroll within the hallowed pages of the Oxford English Dictionary in particular carry the weight of usage behind them, whether we like it or not. Some words added to the OED in the 2010 edition were:

 Bromance: a close but nonsexual relationship between two men.

Catastrophizing: to view or present a situation as considerably worse than it actually is (I am particularly skilled at this – so good to know there’s now a verb for it).

Frenemy: a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry.

You might not use these words, you might curl up your nose in disgust – or thump a harmless table in a particular beer garden of a Fitzroy bar – but they are, it can be argued, quite likely here to stay. I’m becoming accustomed to hearing Facebook as a verb (though I still have to head to a corner for a quiet vomit) but I doubt it’s going anywhere.

And my word of the day has to go to a term from 2007 that made me snort coffee out my nose when I read it: Googlegänger, or a person with your name who shows up when you google yourself.

Now that one, I welcome into my dictionary with open arms.

Rijn Collins

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3 Comments

  1. Lisa said,

    hmmm now I have to wonder if this describes me Adultescent:?
    what a fantastic post, like you I share a passion for words and as a romantic it is harder for me to let go of the old for the new. But they say that is progression. I’d settle for elucubration, any day. Xx

  2. inkymouth said,

    You and me both, my love – I’m doing it right now, I must admit! And as the candlelight flickers, I’m watching ‘The Adventures of English’ on SBS, about the sudden influx of French words on English after the Battle of Hastings in 1066…what bliss.

    Jesus, we really are word nerds, hey? X

  3. Erica said,

    “Bromance” is totally a part of my every day language.

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