Weekly Word Watch: muggle off, munchkin, and päntsdrunk
We’ve got a hearty serving of words this week, generously topped with mayonnaise, mispronunciations, and M-words. Let’s dig in.
The new series of ITV2’s smash reality hit Love Island is back on air. Some of us (hate-)watch for the programme’s sexy sensationalism. Others – like us word nerds at Oxford Dictionaries, monitor the drama for its language (we swear) – as the show has previously popularised slang, such as total melt, or ‘idiot, loser’.
This series has taught us so far that garlic mayonnaise is called aioli, not ‘alioli’. Borrowed from Romance languages in the 1840s, aioli literally means ‘garlic oil’ in the form of seasoned mayonnaise. Contestant Adam Collard’s loving mispronunciation of aioli as ‘alioli’ is not without precedent, though, as even the magisterial Oxford English Dictionary includes ‘allioli’ as a historic form of the word.
— Holly Hood (@HollyHood1995) June 5, 2018
An episode this week also introduced us to muggle off. After contestant Kendall Rae-Knight ditched Niall Aslam for our mayo-mangler, the show informed Niall of his newly single status in a text message hashtagged #MuggledOff.
Muggle, here, is a knock at Niall’s posturing love of Harry Potter in trying to win Kendall, a proven fan. (Niall’s fandom was questioned thanks to another mispronunciation: ‘patronium’ for patronus.) In Harry Potter, a Muggle is a ‘non-magical person’, a J.K. Rowling coinage apparently affixing a diminutive -le onto mug. Among other meanings, mug has long been a term for an ‘idiot’ or ‘fool’ and featured in Love Island slang staples muggy (‘disrespectful’) and mug off (‘steal a partner, treat someone like a mug’).
Viewers were quick to register muggle off as a new entry in the Love Island lexicon. It’s one we expect will have some legs, at least on the Island, as a belittling buzzword for ‘to get duped’.
— Laurence Mozafari (@Laurence_Moza) June 5, 2018
At its Worldwide Developers Conference in California this week, Apple unveiled its latest bells and whistles – and addition to our ever-expanding lexicon of emoji.
On its iOS 12, users can now create Memoji. They are a form of Animoji, or animated emoji that track the movements of user’s face, and now tongue, for fun messages and videos. While Animoji take the form of emoji pandas and robots, Memoji take the form of you, hence the blend word.
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) June 5, 2018
For the name of its new feature, Apple didn’t employ its signature i- prefix, originally standing for internet and forming the likes of iPhone and iMac. That’s not because iMoji could end up sounding too close to its parent, emoji, but because imoji was apparently already taken. It was the name of an app that lets users render selfies and other pictures into digital stickers. Copyright similarly forced Apple Watch in 2015, as iWatch was previously trademarked.
Apple’s Memoji technology isn’t exactly new. Nintendo has offered digital avatars, called Mii, since the late 1990s, and Bitmoji provided self-emojification before Snap acquired them in 2017. But there’s no doubt Apple’s advancement will help mainstream selfie-moji. Will we commonly refer to our emoji selves using Apple’s Memoji or maybe a construction like moji-me, à la mini-me? Will we give them personal names? If so, some of us have a head start – like Kim Kardashian, who, as we’ve seen before on the Word Watch, boasts her very own Kimoji.
This week, we lost Jerry Maren. Just days away from 100, Maren had a long career in Hollywood, but he’ll always be remembered for his work as a munchkin in the Lollipop Guild of the 1939 super-classic Wizard of Oz.
The Wizard of Oz – and its source book, L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – made an immeasurable impact on both cinema and culture. And on language, too. Baum coined the word munchkin for a race of mostly small, cheerful, and prosperous beings in Oz (another Baum original). According to the OED, munchkin probably compounds munch (‘bite-size chewing’?) and -kin, a Dutch diminutive responsible for mannequin and others.
Munchkin has gone on to be a term of endearment for a small person, creature, or object, as well as an occasional political insult for a minor public official in the US. Maren may have embraced the name, but don’t going call a person of short stature a munchkin, let alone that other M-word. Little person and dwarf are preferred terms, but, amid our evolving vocabulary of identity, it’s best simply to ask people how they refer to themselves.
Love Island buzzwords, blend words, and burgeoning identity word-banks aren’t the only trends sweeping the language. Consider Denmark’s hygge, Iceland’s þetta reddast, Sweden’s plogging, lagom, and döstädning: we Anglophones can’t resist Scandinavian lifestyle trends and the fascinating, ‘untranslatable’ vocabulary Nordic people have for them.
Making media waves this week is päntsdrunk, an Anglo-friendly but Scandi-accented rendering of the Finnish kalsarikänni, glossed as ‘drinking at home, alone, in your underwear’. For North American English speakers: that means you can take off your trousers, turn on Netflix, and crack open a cold one. For everyone else, have some decency and please keep your fancy pänts on.
Finnish author Miska Rantanen is coming out with a new book on the philosophy of kalsarikänni, descriptively titled Päntsdrunk: The Finnish Art of Drinking at Home. Alone. In Your Underwear. According to Rantanen, kalsarikänni/päntsdrunk began as a way for Finnish folks to treat themselves during their winters when they needed a break from bundling up and braving the dark cold outside.
English really already has a handy word for the self-care concept: me time. We can’t argue, though, that päntsdrunk is a much more exciting word for it.