3 maggio 2010

Getting a handle on the language

Thanks to the economy, technology and fashion, there are so many new words being created you'd have to be a "didiot" not to notice them. As a didiot myself, I assumed didiot means someone who's an idiot with digital technology (that would be moi), but no: It is a hybrid of "damn" and "idiot." A "yoot" sounds like either a Dr. Seuss character or the way your cousin Vinny would pronounce "youth," but instead it is a person young enough not to remember life before youtube.
Men were already suffering in the "mancession" -- meaning disproportionately more men are unemployed due to the languishing of traditionally male trades like construction. Now they have to cope with the "Tiger effect," too. That's newly alert wives checking up on them through cellphone, GPS, and e-mail records. And by the way, a GPS is not just a gizmo but also a driver that gives too many directions. I have just bought a GPS myself and love it, but wish that instead of the bossy female voice directing me this way and that, I could have mine programmed with Colin Firth telling me in his posh British accent, "Oops! This is a one-way, ducky!" or "Wait 'til the light goes green, love."
Anyway, the Tiger effect must be the downside of "funemployment" for some, that is, enforced time off work that might as well be used to do long-postponed enjoyable things. With today's technology, can cheaters of either gender really be dumb enough to think they won't get caught, or on some level do they want to be? Nah, that's giving them too much credit for psychological complexity. Sex addicts, my Aunt Mabel! They ain't nothin' but hounddogs.
Other new words for males include "hegans," men who are vegetarians but not necessarily sissies, and "heavage," for the male cleavage that Simon Cowell shows off so proudly. Back, too, is the "pornstache," the full luxuriant moustache of the 70s that was especially popular with newsmen and porn actors. Maybe someday the five o' clock shadow that lost Tricky Dick the presidential debate -- but that many women now inexplicably find sexy -- will also seem quaint.
We have the recession to thank for the lack of a "speeding cushion," that is the five miles above the speed limit that a nice ossifer used to let you get by with; now more tickets are being written as cities and states try to rev up their revenues. That "incentifies" drivers to follow the limits. I've been seeing "incentify" a lot in the business world; it's one of those conversions of a noun to a verb that drives traditionalists and grammarians crazy. Sure enough it sounds dopey, but I have come around to the belief that in language, change is inevitable and correctness rests mostly upon usage; it's like a river because it is never the same twice.
From my kids I've picked up "meh," which signifies profound indifference. An exchange might go like this. Question: "Do you want to rent Al Gore's documentary about climate change?" Answer: "Meh."
A neologism that strikes my fancy is "Nocialism," that is, the denial that a policy or law being proposed is an example of Socialism. In politics closer to home, I keep hearing Gov. Culver referred to regularly, but not affectionately, as "the big lug," a signal that his jig is up come November.
From the travel industry comes the word "yotel," very small but sometimes very fancy accommodations that originated in Japan, allowing people to experience luxury for less. From fashion this spring comes "the shoe boot," a warm weather version of the boot. For me, it conjures up a surprisingly tender "All in the Family" episode in which Archie recalls how other kids called him "shoe bootie" because he was so poor he had to wear one shoe and one boot to school. If you remember that episode, too, kid, you're no "yoot."

This post appeared originally in the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa.