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New words from the wide world of pop culture

Pop culture has always been fertile territory for new words, ranging from television shows to 1980s films to Shakespeare. From Japanese manga to the world of professional wrestling, here are a few new words from the world of pop culture that have been added to


Although the television show MacGyver ended back in 1992, Angus MacGyver’s penchant for ‘making or repairing (an object) in an improvised or inventive way, making use of whatever items are at hand’ has lived on in language. The word now serves as a synonym with jury-rig, with people ‘MacGyvering a makeshift jack with a log’.


Maybe the most lexically influential of all science fiction worlds, the Star Trek universe has contributed several words and phrases to our language, ranging from warp speed to Beam me up, Scotty! to mind meld to photon torpedo. Another term that Star Trek has contributed is holodeck, which first appeared in Star Trek: the Next Generation (1987-1994), and refers to ‘a chamber or facility in which a user can experience a holographic or computer-simulated physical environment’. The word is probably a blend of hologram and deck.


Popularized by the seminal sci-fi film Back to the Future Part II, the hoverboard has soared back into popular culture as 2015 marks both the 30th anniversary of the release of the original film, and the ‘future’ that Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) visit in Part II. Recent headlines have also been made by Lexus, in their quest to develop a hoverboard and accompanying skatepark.


Probably not familiar to those outside the world of pro wrestling, the term kayfabe refers to ‘the fact or convention of presenting staged performances as genuine or authentic’. The origin of the word is uncertain, although it is often said to have arisen in American travelling carnivals. The word has been interpreted by some as being an alteration of ‘be fake’ backwards, while the -ay- element is typical of the way words are formed in Pig Latin.


While the term mecha started out in Japanese manga and anime, it has since spread to other science fiction realms as well, including film and video games. Mecha refers to a ‘large armoured robot, typically controlled by a person riding inside the robot itself’. The word comes from the Japanese mekanizumu, which means ‘mechanism’.

manic pixie dream girl (MPDG)

The manic pixie dream girl is a term coined by film critic Nathan Rabin in 2007, with reference to the Kirsten Dunst’s character in the 2005 Cameron Crowe film Elizabethtown. The term refers to a ‘type of female character depicted as vivacious and appealingly quirky, whose main purpose within the narrative is to inspire a greater appreciation in life in a male protagonist’. The term has since taken on a cultural life all its own. To learn more, check out our MPDG video.

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