By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
The article I wrote about two weeks ago on new words that have been added to the lexical pantheon of the English language elicited tremendous interest from my readers—at least judging by the several enthusiastic emails I have received in the aftermath of the article’s publication. Encouraged by this, I have decided to introduce readers to more new words the Oxford Dictionaries—and other English dictionaries—added to the language this year.
So here goes:
Acquihire. This is a noun, and it means “An act or instance of buying out a company primarily for the skills and expertise of its staff, rather than for the products or services it supplies.” Usage examples include “the start-ups are being acquihired in a bid to harvest their talent”; “It's powered by talent acqhired from a solar-powered drone maker as well as poached from NASA.”
The word is a portmanteau made by joining “acquire” and “hire.”
Air punch. This is defined as “An act of thrusting one’s clenched fist up into the air, typically as a gesture of triumph or elation.” Example: “the verdict was greeted with cheers and air punches by her family and friends.”
Amazeballs. It’s an informal word for “extremely good or impressive; amazing.” Example: “The atmosphere was nothing special but the food was amazeballs.” Oxford says the word is the product of a humorous contortion of “amazing.” I frankly don’t see what lexical void this word fills. I am not confident it won’t be a lexical flash in the pan.
Anti-vax. This informal American English adjective is derived from the shortening of “anti-vaccination.” Oxford Dictionaries defines it as “opposed to vaccination.” Usage examples are “anti-vax parents,” “Anti-vax sentiments have, in fact, been around since Edward Jenner first demonstrated the effectiveness of the smallpox vaccine in the late 18th century.”
The dictionary traces the word’s origins to the 1990s, but it is just now being considered a legitimate word worthy of an entry in the dictionary. This word would resonate with many northern Nigerians where “anti-vax” sentiments still remain high.
Binge-watch (binge-view). This is another informal word that began life in 1990s America and has become a prominent part of the active idiolect of contemporary young Americans. It is defined as “Watch multiple episodes of (a television programme) in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming.” Example: “you can binge-watch the entire season with this set.”
The nominal form of the word is binge-watching or binge-viewing.
To “binge” is to overindulge in something, usually food. Older words formed in combination with “binge” are “binge-eat” and “binge-drink.”
Bro hug. This is actually one of my favorites of the new words Oxford welcomed to its database. It is defined as “a friendly embrace between two men.” The “bro” in the phrase is the short form of “brother” that has been part of African American English for years. Another variation of the expression is “man hug.” Usage example: “they had a little bro hug in front of the cameras.”
The phrase is important, I think, because it helps to denote that the embrace between two men isn’t homoerotic.
Clickbait. As a new media scholar, I have been using this word for at least the last five years. I am glad it’s been finally legitimized for popular usage. Oxford Dictionaries defines it as “(On the Internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page. Example: “These recent reports of the show’s imminent demise are hyperbolic clickbait.” Clickbait is the Internet’s equivalent of yellow journalism.
Clickbait can also be used as a modifier, as in “a clickbait article,” or “clickbait blog posts.”
Deep Web. This is defined as “The part of the World Wide Web that is not discoverable by means of standard search engines, including password-protected or dynamic pages and encrypted networks.” Example: “The biggest weakness of the Deep Web is also its greatest strength: it’s really hard to find anything.”
Doncha (also dontcha, don'tcha). The word is derived from the informal contraction of “don’t you.” This looks like one of those words that will be perpetually stuck informal, colloquial register, like “gonna,” (going to) or wanna (want to). But the word isn’t new. It’s been around for years.
Other New Words You Should Note
Douchebaggery (n.): obnoxious or contemptible behavior.
E-cig (n.): another term for electronic cigarette.
Fandom (n.): the fans of a particular person, team, series, etc., regarded collectively as a community or subculture.
Fast follower (n.): a company that quickly imitates the innovations of its competitors.
5:2 diet (n.): a diet that involves eating normally for five days out of a seven-day period and greatly restricting the amount of food eaten on the other two days.
FML (abbrev.): (vulgar slang) f— my life! (used to express dismay at a frustrating personal situation)
Hot mic (n.): a microphone that is turned on, in particular one that broadcasts a spoken remark that was intended to be private.
Humblebrag (n. & v.): (make) an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud.
ICYMI (abbrev.): in case you missed it.
Mud run (n.): an event in which participants negotiate a course consisting of obstacles filled or covered with mud.
Neckbeard (n.): growth of hair on a man’s neck, especially when regarded as indicative of poor grooming.
Paleo diet (n.): a diet based on the type of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans.
Sentiment analysis (n.): the process of computationally identifying and categorizing opinions expressed in a piece of text.
Smartwatch (n.): a mobile device with a touchscreen display, worn on the wrist.
SMH (abbrev.): shaking (or shake) my head (used to express disapproval, exasperation, etc.).
Subtweet (n.): (on Twitter) a post that refers to a particular user without directly mentioning them, typically as a form of furtive mockery or criticism.
Tech-savvy (n.): well informed about or proficient in the use of modern technology.
Time-poor (adj.): spending much of one’s time working or occupied.
Throw shade (phr.): publicly criticize or express contempt for someone.
WDYT (abbrev.): what do you think?
YOLO (abbrev.): you only live once (expressing the view that one should make the most of the present moment).
Notable Words of the Year
Chambers Dictionary and Collins English Dictionary, two well-regarded dictionaries in Britain, named their words of the year early in the year. The words have also helped expand and legitimize our lexical repertoire.
Chambers Dictionary’s word of the year is “overshare.” It defines it as “to be unacceptably forthcoming with information about one’s personal life.” It can also mean unsolicited and inappropriate self-disclosure of private, intimate information with online interlocutors. In addition, it can be used to denote the disclosure of the private, often embarrassing, information about one’s ex-lover, with intent to expose them to ridicule.
Chambers calls the word “beautifully British.” But that’s not accurate. As Michael Quinion of World Wide Words noted, “It’s neither British nor new, as it was first recorded as teen slang in the US in the 1990s and appeared in print in the New York Times as early as 1998.”
Runners-up to “overshare” are “bashtag,” defined as “a hashtag used for critical or abusive comments” and “digital native,” defined as “a person who has learned to use computers as a child.”
Collins English Dictionary, for its part, chose “photobomb” as its word of the year. It means “to intrude into the background of a photograph without the subject’s knowledge.” This is what Collins wrote to justify its choice: “The main spike in the Bank of English occurs in early August 2012 relating to the ‘Queen photobomb’, when an official called Phil Coates intruded into pictures of the Queen at the opening of the London Olympics. Since then, recorded usage has doubled every year.
“We had been tracking ‘photobomb’ for a couple of years but were not sure that it would become widely established. Its vastly increased prominence in 2014 shows the power of media and sporting events to publicise a word and bring it into wider use.”