By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
New words enter the English language perhaps more frequently than they do any language in the world. That’s why English has the most words of any language in the world. Oxford Dictionaries, the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary, recently added a slew of new words to the English language, and I thought my readers would like to know some of these words.
Note, though, that Oxford Dictionaries (www.oxforddictionaries.com) is different from the Oxford English Dictionary (www.oed.com), although they belong to the same family. Words in Oxford Dictionaries may not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, which is more linguistically conservative and intellectually snobbish than Oxford Dictionaries.
In what follows, I list some of the words I find noteworthy.
1. Adorbs: It’s an adjective used informally to mean “Inspiring great delight; cute or adorable.” Examples the dictionary gives are: “all the pets are totally adorbs”; “check out the adorbs photo”; “newborn babies are so adorb.” The dictionary etymologizes the word as an early 21st century modification of “adorable.” I have never come across this word before, and I’m unlikely to ever use it.
2. Cord cutting. This expression is defined as “The practice of canceling or forgoing a cable television subscription or landline telephone connection in favor of an alternative Internet-based or wireless service.” A usage example is, “The cable industry has seen a decline in television subscribers as customers engage in cord cutting.”
Many people outside the West may not be able to relate to this expression for many obvious reasons. For one, canceling cable subscription isn’t an option for most people in the developing world because broadband Internet connection is still a luxury. Second, landline telephone connection never quite took off in many developing countries to start with, so canceling it isn’t part of people’s experiential repertoire there.
3. Cray or Cray Cray. The dictionary defines this word as the short form of “crazy” and says it’s chiefly American. Usage examples include: “I have a feeling this is gonna get cray”; “She’s cray cray.” I’ve actually first heard this word from my 10-year-old daughter. I didn’t think it would get lexicographical imprimatur.
4. Dox (also doxx). This word is spawned by online interactions. It’s defined as “Search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the Internet, typically with malicious intent.” Examples are: “Hackers and online vigilantes routinely dox both public and private figures”; “Perhaps the greatest threat is their contacts with other hackers who are more than willing to dox them.”
Perhaps the best example of a doxing in Nigerian cyberspace was the unmasking of presidential aide Reno Omokri by Nigerian cyber sleuthhounds. Omokri sent out a libelous news release against former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Sanusis Lamido Sanusi (who is now the emir of Kano) with the false name Wendell Simlin, but wasn’t careful enough to cover his cyber tracks, so he was doxed.
Dox, according to the Oxford Dictionaries, is the “alteration of docs, plural of doc (short for document).”
5. Hate-watch (noun is hate-watching). It means to “Watch (a television program) for the sake of the enjoyment one derives from mocking or criticizing it.” Some usage examples the dictionary gives are “I hate-watched every single episode”; “It was the year that hate-watching became our national pastime.”
I think this word actually fills a real lexical void in the language and is likely to endure. On a personal note, it perfectly captures my relationship with Nigerian movies. (Read my January 1, 2009 article titled “When Art Imitates Dreams: A Commentary on Nigerian Movies”)
A related word is “binge-watch,” which is defined as “watch[ing] multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession.”
6. Hench. This British informal adjective is used of a man to mean “strong, fit, and having well-developed muscles.” Some usage examples the dictionary gives are: “There’s nothing funnier than seeing a really hench guy walking a tiny dog”; “he’s looking pretty hench.”
The word is probably derived from henchman, the dictionary says. Henchman basically means a collaborator, a partner in crime, or a bodyguard. Maybe it’s the notion of muscularity that defines bodyguards that informed the formation of the word.
7. Hot mess. This is a chiefly American English term that I’ve been familiar with for the past decade. I am surprised it’s only just now being recognized. Well, Oxford Dictionaries defines it as “A person or thing that is spectacularly unsuccessful or disordered.” Usage examples are: “This outfit is definitely a hot mess”; “She is out of control and a total hot mess.”
A controversial TV series on BET (i.e. Black Entertainment Television) titled “A Hot Ghetto Mess” is perhaps the most popular usage of the expression. The show has been renamed “We Got to Do Better” because of the outrage the name sparked in the black American community.
8. Hyperconnected. This word means “Characterized by the widespread or habitual use of devices that have Internet connectivity.” Examples: “In our hyperconnected world, employees expect to work from anywhere”; “How instantly reachable we all are, how hyperconnected, with our smartphones, laptops, and tablets.”
9. Listicle. This word is formed from a blend of “list” and “article,” thus it is “an article on the Internet presented in the form of a numbered or bullet-pointed list.” Example: “A recent BuzzFeed listicle called ‘21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity’ has attracted more than 13 million views.”
This column is also an example of a listicle.
10. Live-tweet. Anybody who is active on social media knows and uses this word. Oxford Dictionaries has now conferred prestige on it by recognizing it as a legitimate word. It’s defined as, “Post comments about (an event) on Twitter while the event is taking place.” Example: “I live-tweet every game post.”
11. Mansplain (noun is manplaining). It’s a portmanteau word made by combining “man” and “explain.” It’s defined as follows: “(Of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.” Examples: “I’m listening to a guy mansplain economics to his wife”; “Your response is classic mansplaining,”
A man who habitually “mansplains” is called a “mansplainer,” as in: “Hopefully not sounding like a know-it-all mansplainer, what you're suffering sounds a lot like the initial days/weeks after my injury.”
Can we also have “womansplain,” Oxford Dictionaries? Thank you!
12. Second screen. It means “A mobile device used while watching television, especially to access supplementary content or applications,” as in: “viewers use social media on second screens when watching TV.” It can also be used as a modifier (as in: “an interactive second-screen experience”) and as a verb (as in: “many people are now second-screening to look at information about the show”).
13. Side boob. This is defined as “the side part of a woman’s breast, as exposed by a revealing item of clothing.” Example: “The figure-hugging creation showed off plenty of side boob.”
14. Side-eye. It means “a sidelong glance expressing disapproval or contempt.” Examples: “After we complained of being ignored she kept giving me the side-eye”; “She casts a side-eye and nods dubiously.” I really like this word.
15. Spit-take. It is defined as “an act of suddenly spitting out liquid one is drinking in response to something funny or surprising. Examples: “The goofy script and flat characters would never fly without all the spit takes”; “If I’d been drinking something when she said that, I’d have done a spit take.”
16. Vape. This is the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year. It means “Inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.” Examples: “I’d rather people vaped indoors than smoked outside”; “Many smokers have started vaping e-cigarettes to help them cut down”; “There’s concern that young people may take up vaping as a less harmful alternative to smoking.”
Vape is also used as noun to mean an electronic cigarette. It’s a short form of “vapor” or “vaporize,” according to the dictionary.