Weekly Word Watch: parennial, polytropos, and Trumpadamus
On this instalment of the Weekly Word Watch, it’s millennial mashups, prognosticating presidents, ‘complicated’ translations, and really, really, really long German words:
What happens when millennials – the tech-forward, oft-scorned generation born around 1980-2000 – have children? Why, we get a new word! For the New York Times, Bruce Feiler examined the parenting practices of millennial parents, or parennials as he has blended the words:
Eighty-two percent of children born each year are born to millennial mothers. That’s five out of every six babies. And their parents – let’s call them ‘parennials’ – are challenging all sorts of commonly held beliefs about the American family.
Feiler’s coinage comes on the heels of some other millennial wordplay, such xennial. ‘Between Generation X and the Millennials, there’s a group of people currently in their late 20s and early 30s who don’t identify with either label,’ Sarah Stankorb and Jed Oelbaum wrote for Good in 2014. ‘We call them the Xennials – a micro-generation that serves as a bridge between the disaffection of Gen X and the blithe optimism of Millennials’.
Others see such ‘micro-generations’ as xennial as arbitrary, if not discriminatory. Like Gina Pell of the What, who went straight for the pun with perennial: ‘The Perennials. We are ever-blooming, relevant people of ALL ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages’.
Seasonal Dating Disorder
Millennials who haven’t yet settled down may be experiencing loneliness, longing, and other symptoms of SDD – so-called seasonal dating disorder, the tendency of certain singles to seek out relationships during the colder, darker months of the year come round. It’s sort of like seasonal affective disorder, but for dating.
Look out for signs of SDD during drafting season, or ‘the time where you get serious about finding that someone to share cuffing season with. You’re literally drafting people to date’ at the end of summer, as Madison Vanderberg explained for Hello Giggles. SDD is typically full-blown by cuffing season, ‘the period during autumn and winter months in which avid singletons find themselves seeking to be “cuffed” or “tied down” by a serious relationship’, as Olivia Petter defined the trending term for the Independent.
‘Tell me about a complicated man’, classicist Emily Wilson opens her new translation of Homer’s Odyssey. Critics are hailing Wilson’s work as a striking treatment of the epic poem, as seen just five words in with her inspired choice of complicated for the notoriously wily polytropos. The ancient Greek polytropos literally means ‘many turns’, but Wilson thinks what it actually implies of Odysseus is up for interpretation. She gave the New York Times Magazine a little language lesson:
The prefix poly…means ‘many’ or ‘multiple’. Tropos means ‘turn’. ‘Many’ or ‘multiple’ could suggest that he’s much turned, as if he is the one who has been put in the situation of having been to Troy, and back, and all around, gods and goddesses and monsters turning him off the straight course that, ideally, he’d like to be on. Or, it could be that he’s this untrustworthy kind of guy who is always going to get out of any situation by turning it to his advantage. It could be that he’s the turner.
Polytropos may be a scary looking word, but its roots took many turns in English. Poly is much prefixed, e.g., polygamy or polychromatic, while tropos gives us trope, tropics, and entropy, among many others.
If we’re not talking about Donald Trump, we’re busy making up words about him. One of the latest Trump-manteau words gathering some steam is the ironic Trumpadamus, or ‘how the president’s tweets have predicted his own future’, as Adam Gabbatt put it this week on the Guardian:
— (((Shining City))) (@shiningcity1776) August 9, 2017
The epithet alludes to Nostradamus, the self-styled seer who ‘foretold’ various calamities in the cryptic quatrains of his 16th-century Prophecies. Online, people are especially taking to the #Trumpadamus hashtag to make fun of how Trump’s past criticisms on his favorite medium, Twitter, now come across as humorously self-directed.
Meanwhile on Twitter, a very different word is making the rounds. The German language amuses and bemuses with its cascading compounds, including one of its longest, Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, which refers to a ‘law for the delegation of monitoring beef labelling’. The Telegraph provides a helpful pronunciation:
Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?
Thanks to its cumbersomeness, the word was officially repealed in 2013, but the German Ministry of Justice gave it new life when embracing Twitter’s upped 280-character limit on Tuesday:
Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz war mal das längste Wort Deutschlands und wäre wohl ein guter Grund für #280Zeichen gewesen.
PS: Unsere Gesetzesredaktion hilft seitdem, Gesetze kürzer und verständlicher zu formulieren:https://t.co/n3KYpuLVGQ
— BMJV (@BMJV_Bund) November 8, 2017
The tweet roughly translates as: ‘Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz was once the longest word in Germany and would have been a good reason for #280characters. PS: Our law office has been helping to formulate laws that are shorter and easier to understand.’
German courts, meanwhile, have ruled that the country’s forms must include an option for a third sex for people who don’t identify as men or women. A possible name for the sex is short and sweet: inter, shortened from intersex.
Fair play, Germany.