Weekly Word Watch: Hangry, Afrofuturism, and Zumexit
The words may change week after week, but the themes don’t seem to. On this Word Watch, we’re looking at some more words about food, some more words about politics, and some more words made from other words.
Before a gravity-defying run that won her gold in the women’s halfpipe at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, 17-year-old American snowboarder Chloe Kim sent out a tweet that won her gold on the internet:
Wish I finished my breakfast sandwich but my stubborn self decided not to and now I’m getting hangry
— Chloe Kim (@chloekimsnow) February 13, 2018
We know exactly what you mean, Chloe. No, really. You mean ‘bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger’, as the Oxford English Dictionary has defined hangry as part of its latest update.
A portmanteau of hungry and angry, hangry came into common currency in the 2000-10s, but the OED finds record of it as early as 1956, when American Imago, a psychology journal co-founded by Freud, ran an article discussing various blending wordplay. The OED has the citation: ‘More complicated samples [of contraction]: slabor for slave labor, meducation for medical education…, hangry for hungry and angry’.
Hangry has also inspired its own back-formation: the noun hanger. A 2016 humour article on the Odyssey, for instance, opined: ‘Nothing could ever compare to the love, happiness, and sense of peace with the universe that you feel when you can finally dig into your meal after a hanger episode’. Hanger hasn’t completely sated our lexical appetites, however. It has yet to catch on, requiring more context in use to differentiate it from, say, coat hanger.
If you’re hangry, don’t reach for those instant noodles. Or crisps. Or chocolate bars. Or energy bars. Or frozen pizzas. Or just about any other tempting item you’d pick up in a pinch at the corner shop. French researchers have found that they are ‘associated with higher overall cancer risk’, and they call them ‘ultra-processed foods’.
Ultra-processed isn’t an original bit of technical jargon, though; written evidence for the term emerges as early as the mid-1970s. But, if we’re all running around shoving higher cancer risk down our throats, we might as well educate ourselves on this latest health news buzzword.
The French researchers adopted ultra-processed from NOVA system of food classification, which categorizes food based on their extent of processing. With the greatest extent is Group 4, ultra-processed food and drink. These are ‘industrial formulations typically with five or more and unusually many ingredients’ that are also ‘found in processed foods, such as sugar, oil, fats, salt, anti-oxidants, stabilisers, and preservatives’.
Ultra-processed foods, then, are processed from already processed foods, hence the prefix ultra, from the Latin for ‘beyond’. It’s a useful distinction in age when we’re paying increasing attention to our diets and are developing an increasingly sophisticated language to talk about it. For we all consume plenty of processed foods – itself a bugbear buzzword – that are perfectly health for us: grains, honey, cheese, and pepper are all technically processed. Just put down those biscuits…well, maybe just one for the road.
Marvel Studios’ latest release, Black Panther, is set to break box office records this weekend – and cultural records, too, featuring black art and culture on the big screen like never before.
The movie will introduce many of us to some exciting new vocabulary. Wakanda is the fictional nation where much of the Black Panther takes place, imagined to be somewhere in East Africa. Wakanda is rich in vibranium, a fictional metal that can absorb vibrational energy. Vibranium is used in the outfit worn by the Black Panther, whose given name is T’Challa, pronounced like Tuh-Challa. T’Challa is king and protector of Wakanda, where they speak Wakandan, rendered for the film as the real language of Xhosa, a Bantu language known for its click consonants and spoken especially in South Africa.
The Black Panther film will also introduce many to the ideas and aesthetics of a movement called Afrofuturism. The term is credited to cultural critic Mark Dery (who is white, as were the Black Panther’s creators, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby). Dery coined it in a 1993 essay on black technoculture, ‘Black to the Future’:
Speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth-century technoculture – and more generally, African-American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future – might, for want of a better term, be called ‘Afro-futurism’.
Use of Afro- as a prefix for ‘relating to Africa’ goes back to the 19th-century, while Dery’s sense of futurism is rooted in early 20th-century thought.
Definitions of Afrofuturism have varied since then, as have what Afrofuturists have identified as its chief concerns. For his part, Black Panther’s director, Ryan Coogler, understands Afrofuturism as an empowered and refreshing response to the colonization of the African continent, finding ‘a way to bridge the cultural aspects of the ancient African traditions with the potential of the future’, as the Independent reports.
Speaking of the future and Africa, Jacob Zuma no longer has one as president of South Africa after a long, if complicated, history of leadership in his country. Under pressure from his party, Zuma resigned this week over corruption allegations.
One thing that continues to prove it has future, though, is the combining form -exit, of Brexit notoriety. Observers of Zuma’s embattled tenure previously dubbed his stepping-down as Zumxit when the president was facing resignation in March 2016; other variations, then and now, include Zumexit, Zexit, and ZumaExit, especially in hashtag form.
— News24 (@News24) February 15, 2018
What’s lexically interesting about Zumexit and co. is that the -exit suffix isn’t referring to the departure of a political state from some larger body, as we saw last year in Catalexit, or Catalonia’s vote for independence from Spain. Here, it refers to the departure of a politician from office, showing that -exit is evolving as a go-to combining form to signify a range of ‘political departure’.
‘Departure’ is even beginning to include policy. In 2016-17, some tweeters referred to the privatisation of, or reductions to, the NHS as NHSexit. The term didn’t gather much steam, but it suggests -exit could be heating up as form to signify ever broader types of political change.