Weekly Word Watch: Veganuary, mouth cooking, and backwards books
Word-wise, 2018 is already off to a busy start. On our second Word Watch of the new year, we have vegan blends, gobsmacking cookery, spineless libraries, and an early candidate for Euphemism of the Year.
In the new year, many of us resolve to follow cleaner diets and healthier lifestyles. The past decade has witnessed the popularity of Drynuary, when participants dry out, i.e., abstain from alcohol, for the month of January, for a ‘post-holiday cleanse’. Another trend – and blend – on the rise is Veganuary, or going vegan for the first month of the year.
Veganuary began in 2014, launched by a UK charity of the same name. It encourages participants to pledge veganism during January in order to ‘reduce the suffering of animals, help the planet, and improve personal health’. With well over 100,000 pledgers into its fourth year, the organization explains Veganuary is pronounced ‘vee-gan-uary’, despite temptations to stress the second syllable to make the coinage better accord with our pronunciation of January.
A viral YouTube video called ‘Cooking With Your Mouth’ features a chef preparing a Christmas turkey stuffing entirely with her mouth – from dicing onions by chewing a big bite to zesting lemon by scraping the rind against her teeth to mixing a raw egg by swishing it around her gums.
Gross or genius?
As The Washington Post has reported, artist Nathan Ceddia earnestly made the video ‘to create a type of cooking that makes people think a bit more’, including how our food makes it onto our plates. ‘Why not bring it back to where it all began, when [people] had to cook with their mouth?’ The Post is quick to explain humans have been using tools to prepare food for nearly four million years, but that won’t be stopping the other mouth cooking tutorials Ceddia has in the pipeline.
Ceddia has previously explored our physical relationship with food, including a fetish called sploshing, which involves applying food to the naked skin – like sitting on cakes, bare-bottomed.
If mouth cooking is turning food preparation on its head, yet another bizarre trend making the rounds in 2018 is literally turning how we shelve our books on its head – or spine, rather. It’s called backwards books, and it involves, yes, displaying your books backwards.
Some stylists like the neutral, minimalist look the outward-facing white and beige pages give a room. Everyone else, meanwhile, is running the emotional gamut from bemusement to you’re-doing-it-wrong outrage. In the waning hours of 2017, comedian Pete Otway weighed on an image of backwards books in Ideal Home magazine:
Well Lauren’s a blithering idiot then, isn’t she? pic.twitter.com/2uAAp87TTK
— Pete Otway (@PeteOtway) December 31, 2017
His viral tweet has since helped make backwards books a divisive topic. And though the internet was chattering about it last fall, a website from quartz-worktop brand Caesarstone noted backwards books as early as 2014. Others added that home improvement/decorating shows have long used the practice, but it took 2018, apparently, to give it its due hashtag: #backwardsbooks.
The American Dialect Society (ADS) is fresh off its vote for Word of the Year, when it selected fake news on 5th January due in large part to Donald Trump’s use of it for ‘actual news that is claimed to be untrue’. Fake news beat out the winners of the subcategories, including alternative facts, chosen as Euphemism of the Year.
Lexicographer Ben Zimmer, who chairs the ADS’s New Words Committee, observed on Twitter recently, though, that the new year has already served up a candidate for 2018’s Euphemism of the Year: executive time.
Zimmer spoke with the BBC about the ways Trump has influenced our vocabulary. The BBC nicely summarized the emerging phrase executive time:
A private schedule of the president’s day at the White House has revealed he has two hours of so-called “executive time” before he arrives for work at the Oval Office at 11am.
Axios, which first obtained the schedule, says this slot is spent in his residence, watching cable news, making phone calls and tweeting.
His spokeswoman says he is making calls to party colleagues and foreign leaders, and works a very long day.
Either way, suddenly people are talking about “executive time” as a euphemism for social media use, calling friends and napping.
In other words, it seems no one but Trump’s staff is fooled executive time really means cable news and Twitter, including White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, who gave us another word to talk about, yeoman-like, when he challenged incredulous reporters:
It is ludicrous, when many of you yourselves have reported on the fact that the President exhibits yeoman-like work every day in this job, whether it be up before dawn and up into the wee hours of the morning every day…To describe his work ethic as anything other than yeoman-like is ridiculous, and everyone knows it.
Speaking of fake, have you ever visited Tabarnia? No? That’s because it’s not a real place. As The Times covered it this weekend, Tabarnia a fictitious region, roughly corresponding to the greater Barcelona area, that wants to break away from Catalonia, which voted to leave Spain last year. Some Spanish activists invented Tabarnia as early as 2011 to satirize what’s been dubbed Catalexit.
Tabarnia has its own slogan: ‘Barcelona is not Catalonia’, riffing on the Catalan separatists’ own ‘Catalan is not Spain’. It has its own flag, which joins elements from the flags of Barcelona and Tarragon, the two main Spanish Mediterranean cities whose clipped and blended names supply Tabarnia. And of course it has its own Twitter account:
¡Vaya con Tabarnia! https://t.co/Ys0z0ta7yN
— Tabarnia (@tabarnia) December 30, 2017
#RAEconsultas Entendiendo que se refiere al gentilicio de Tabarnia, podría usarse «tabarnés», como en «auvernés» (de Auvernia) o «hibernés» (de Hibernia), pero también serían válidos «tabarniense» o «tabarniano».
— RAE (@RAEinforma) December 27, 2017
A Tabarnian in Spanish, the RAE says, could be a tabarnés, tabarniense, or tabarniano.