Gen Z, fidget spinners, and sweetheart deals: an Oxford Dictionaries update
Put down your fidget spinner, turn away from the popcorn movie, and switch off airplane mode, because we’ve updated Oxford Dictionaries. Take some time off from creating a face swap of you and your puggle. Don’t worry: we’ll try to be breviloquent, though feel free to give your deep dive in the comments.
From faithless electors to civic nationalism
This year has brought significant changes to the political landscape, and this is reflected in the number of new terms relating to politics entering the English lexicon. Last year’s US presidential election saw increases in the use of, for example, faithless elector – a member of the electoral college who does not vote for the candidate for whom they had pledged to vote – and nineteenth-century term snollygoster – an insult for a shrewd and unprincipled person, used particularly of politicians.
A snollygoster is the sort of person who might engage in a sweetheart deal, i.e. an agreement benefiting a particular group and reached in an unofficial or illicit way. They may also be the type to be guilty of non-denial: a statement that appears to deny a particular claim, but that in actuality fails to do so, such as stating that you don’t remember saying something rather than claiming not to have said it at all.
Responding with non-denial could be the result of an ambush interview, when the interviewer catches the interviewee off-guard, meaning there isn’t time to put much thought into their answers. North American politics also gives us the term sanctuary city to refer to cities where the local law tends to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.
We have added state-building in our most recent update: this is the activity of strengthening the institutions and infrastructure of a weak or failing state, typically performed by a foreign power. It would take a deep dive – an in-depth examination or analysis – to fully understand the possible consequences of state-building. A more domestic focus gives us the term civic nationalism: ‘a political attitude of devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country combined with a feeling of shared community with fellow citizens’. This term is especially used in contrast to views of nationalism based on ethnicity, race, or religion.
From robo-advisers to face-swapping
Technological innovation has always gone hand in hand with lexical innovation, and in this update we continue to see linguistic development arising from new technology. Unfortunately, a robo-adviser is slightly less futuristic than it might sound: rather than a humanoid robot doling out wisdom, this newly added word refers to an online app that provides automated financial guidance.
Similarly, if asked twenty years ago what airplane mode (or flight mode) might refer to, you’d be forgiven for thinking of a jet ski that can take to the sky when a switch is flipped. The reality is a little more mundane, though a tad more practical: a setting to prevent wireless signals on smartphones and tablets from interfering with an aircraft’s communication systems.
Airplane mode/flight mode
Mobile technology has also brought us the ability to order many different services through apps, often resulting in competitive prices – watch out though, though prices can change dramatically when the service is in high demand! This practice is called surge-pricing and has been particularly controversial in some cases.
If you’re clever enough to spot any errors in one of the new programmes or applications, perhaps you should screen-grab it (save an image of what is displayed on your screen) and send it to the developers in return for a bug bounty. More and more developers are offering rewards by the way of bug bounties to users who alert them to issues with their technology.
Of course, not all innovation is widely accepted: we’ve recently added the term woo-woo, which is used in a derogatory way to refer to beliefs that lack a scientific foundation, particularly beliefs relating to mysticism or alternative medicine. But technology does not always have to be practical: lately, it has also given us the ability to create a face swap.
From Generation Z to the Silent Generation
A face swap, for the uninitiated, is not sci-fi level cosmetic surgery but the result of an app that switches the faces of two subjects in a photo for humorous effect. Usually this will be of two people, but it can include animals for more extreme results. If this doesn’t appeal, don’t worry, it might be a Generation Z thing (i.e. something enjoyed by the generation after millennials, just starting to reach adulthood now), the way that dabbing is often a Gen Z thing.
When you dab – in the latest sense added to our online dictionaries – you perform a dance move or gesture with one arm bent across the upper chest and one arm extended, with the face turned into the bent elbow. This move is often performed as a celebration, and so is the sort of thing a triple threat will have plenty of opportunity for! Well established and now included in our dictionary, a triple threat is a person who is particularly skilled in three areas within their field, such as a person who is able to sing, act, and dance well.
It’s not just the youngest generation who have been keeping their hands occupied with fidget spinners, a simple toy that can be spun between the fingers. If spinning isn’t your style, you might prefer to fidget with a stress ball instead: these balls of malleable material can be squeezed or manipulated with the fingers in order to relieve stress, and the use of one might be considered a form of self-care. Self-care can have two meanings: one relating to health, and the other to managing stress and happiness. Everyone – from the Silent Generation through to Generation Z – needs to relax a little at some point; sometimes this can mean vegging out and watching a popcorn movie (an entertaining film that lacks depth) rather than anything more serious.
From cheat days to dine-ins
Just because you are watching a popcorn movie doesn’t mean you have to be munching on popcorn. There may be something on offer at our buffet of new food terms to tempt you instead; let’s hope it’s your cheat day! For fans of spice, you could sit down to a plate of shakshuka – a dish originating in North African and Israeli cooking consisting of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce – or perhaps you’d rather spread nduja – a spicy paste of cured pork and peppers, originating in Italy – on your sandwich. For something a bit lighter, onigiri – a Japanese dish of rice balls stuffed with pickled fillings – might be ideal. Just make sure you eat your dessert last, or you’ll have the whole thing backasswards!
To wash it all down, you could reach for a class of amaro, an Italian liquor consumed as an aid to digestion, or – for a non-alcoholic choice – switchel. This North American drink of water and vinegar sweetened with molasses or maple syrup has seen a recent revival in popularity.
Whether you’re taking it away, or opting to dine-in, hopefully there is something on the menu that appeals!