From TEOTWAWKI to hoyay: words on the radar
Which words are our lexicographers looking carefully at right now? Well, all and any of them, of course – but there are some interesting words which are hovering on the peripheries of dictionary inclusion that we wanted to draw your attention to.
Words aren’t included in Oxford Dictionaries until enough evidence of their sustained use is gathered, but these words are waiting in the wings – you might see them in dictionaries before long, or they might fade away before they reach quite that level of popularity. Here’s what’s on the radar.
Let’s start with something dramatic. This initialism stands for ‘The End of the World as We Know It’, and is used to denote a catastrophic event which destroys the existing institutions and norms of human society – as well as having a broader, often humorous, application to scenarios which aren’t really all that earth-shattering.
While most people might use TEOTWAWKI only in a hypothetical sense, a group known as preppers are probably keen to use an initialism so as to take up less time before said event: the believed impending apocalypse. Prepper, ultimately from prepare, is already in Oxford Dictionaries: ‘a person who believes a catastrophic disaster or emergency is likely to occur in the future and makes active preparations for it, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies’.
Only time will tell what the legacy of Brexit will be – certainly, the word itself (coined in 2012 on the pattern of Grexit, and initially spelled Brixit) has only grown in popularity since it made the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year shortlist last year.
A sure sign of linguistic impact is the spawning of further words – and there are several on our radar. For starters, there’s regrexit and Bregret (both used in reference to the regret felt/expressed by a person who voted to leave the EU and now wishes they had not done so). Continuing the theme of portmanteaus, remainiac has been suggested, from remain + maniac, being a derogatory term for those who voted Remain and/or those who are protesting the outcome of the referendum. And then – possibly with less chance of survival, given the unlikelihood of it happening – ScotLond, a proposed union between Scotland and London, both of which were among the areas of the UK which voted to remain in the EU. For more on Brexit’s linguistic generosity, see John Kelly’s article at Slate.
The EU referendum may have contributed to an increase in decision fatigue, but it was already well on its way to inclusion in Oxford Dictionaries. The term is used to describe the inability to make a decision after having had too many choices to make already, on the same pattern as compassion fatigue (‘indifference to charitable appeals on behalf of suffering people, experienced as a result of the frequency or number of such appeals’), information fatigue (‘apathy, indifference, or mental exhaustion arising from exposure to too much information’), and other similar words.
Political coverage may also have led to the rise of bothsidesism, which is not a tribute to the songs of Joni Mitchell, but rather an approach to journalism that habitually gives equal representation to both sides of any controversial issue, irrespective of how well the two positions are supported by the facts.
Yarn bombing was recently added to Oxford Dictionaries, and now it looks like craftivism is very much on the radar. It is the use of craft objects as a means of raising awareness of a particular social or political issue – perhaps politicized yarn bombing. The word follows the same pattern as other words playing around the word activism, including slacktivism (‘actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g. signing an online petition’) and hactivism (gaining unauthorized access to computer files or networks in order to further social or political ends).
There’s always the chance that your crafting will involve a drunkard’s path. No, we’re not casting slurs: this denotes a patchwork pattern consisting of quarter-circles which meander (much as a drunkard might) across a quilt.
The Internet is, of course, replete with neologisms and wordplay, but there are some words which have sprung from the World Wide Web which have made the distance from in-joke to being on our horizons (though haven’t quite made it into Oxford Dictionaries as of yet). Some of these words are still only Internet-famous – a term used to distinguish from people who (or things which) are famous briefly or within a specific community on the Internet. You might, for instance, discover vloggers who have the self-awareness to label themselves Internet-famous, rather than simply famous, because they are very popular within YouTube but relatively unknown to those who seldom watch vlogs.
While we’re talking about the Internet, one phrase frequently seen in memes and comment threads is said no one ever, used to emphasize that the previous statement is false or atypical – underlining the sarcasm which might conceivably be overlooked in the original: ‘I really love waiting ages for my food to arrive, said no one ever’.
Shag already has plenty of meanings and senses, from a baseball move to a cormorant. If you speak fluent British English, then the meaning that probably first springs to mind is the verb ‘have sexual intercourse with’ – though the sense on our radar is rather more of a public event. It’s a party thrown by a couple in advance of their wedding, often acting as a fundraiser for the wedding, which members of the wider public may buy tickets to attend. The word apparently blends shower (from bridal shower) and stag (from stag party, the British English equivalent of bachelor party). It’s certainly one to clarify pretty carefully on invitations, if you are sending them out.
Speaking of relationship-related linguistic blends, fauxmance is also on our watch list for inclusion in Oxford Dictionaries. Combining faux and romance, it is used of a fake romance (or one suspected to be fake) – particularly one involving celebrities, as a publicity stunt. And then there’s showmance, a term used of romances between couples in the theatre world, in reality television, or (fictionally) in films and TV shows.
Speaking of showmances, this word – which can also be spelled ho yay or HoYay – is a contraction of homoeroticism, yay!, being the happy recognition of homoerotic subtext in a television show, film, book, or similar. It has been traced to the website Television Without Pity (then known as Mighty Big TV) and discussions of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off Angel – and, as mention of that show might suggest, the term has been around since c.1999/2000m but remains on the radar at the moment, having remained relatively niche in popularity to date. Less popular, but related, is Foe Yay, where perceived attraction between arch-nemeses is championed.
Mice, rats, and yaks
Animals crop up in three words on the radar this month – though that is where the similarities end. Mousetrapping is the practice of deceiving or entrapping someone, specifically applied to Internet users being sent around a labyrinth of unwanted websites, usually with some part of their computer’s or browser’s escape functionality being disabled. Yak shaving, meanwhile, stays in the world of computers – as it is commonly heard in software development – but describes doing small or trivial tasks to avoid something more difficult and more important, either as a means of procrastination or, conversely, required before the larger task can take place.
Finally, there’s rat fucking. It’s used in discussions of American politics to denote especially underhanded political sabotage or trickery – and while evidence for its use can be found in the 1990s, it is only recently that it has started to come to greater prominence. Rat fuck, meaning ‘a contemptible or despicable person’, is found as far back as the 1920s – and rat fucking may relate to another sense of rat fuck in the Oxford English Dictionary: ‘a bungled or disorganized operation or undertaking’, originally used chiefly in military slang.