Weekly Word Watch: denuclearization, lozhka, and jobbymoon
In this Weekly Word Watch, we travel the world looking for common ground only to be stymied by some not-so-shared understandings – of words.
At a historic summit in Singapore this week, US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un signed a joint declaration in which Kim committed ‘to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula’.
Denuclearization is a big word, in more ways than one. Dating back to at least the 1950s, it means ‘the removal of nuclear weapons’ from an area or craft. This technical term loads Latin and Greek affixes (de-, -ize, -ation) onto its ‘nuclear’ core (ultimately from the Latin nux, ‘nut’). But dictionary definitions are one thing; geopolitical ones are another.
The declaration has not settled the meaning of denuclearization in practice. For the US, it means nixing North Korea’s nukes. For the DPRK, it means the US also surrenders its arsenal in South Korea – part of the ‘Korean Peninsula’ by definition. And what are we to make of ‘work toward’? It seems the diplomats might need just not translators at hand but lexicographers, too.
From the Balkans, let’s head up to Russia, where the 2018 World Cup kicked off this week with the full fanfare – of wooden spoons.
Dubbed ‘Spoons of Victory’, the official noisemaker of the Cup is the lozhka, a percussion instrument used in traditional Russian music. Pronounced roughly like luowshkuh, lozhka (ложка) literally means ‘spoon’ in Russian. Its plural is lozhki (ложки), though usually anglicised to lozhkas. A popular fast-food restaurant in Russia, as another example of the word, is called Chaynaya Lozhka (Чайная Ложка), or ‘teaspoon’.
The host country sought an instrument that displayed their culture without drowning out the airwaves as the South African vuvuzela horns did in 2010 or the caxirola shakers did in 2014. We can all rally behind the excitement of football’s greatest tournament, but we’ll have to see – er, hear – whether we all want to spoon up or gag ourselves with the lozhkas.
This week some readers of The New York Times rolled their eyes at Sarah Firshein’s lexical efforts in its pages: jobbymoon, or a holiday taken between jobs.
Honeymoons and babymoons are both culturally anointed trips timed to big life events. But there’s no common name for the trip that follows another milestone: switching jobs. Although these ‘jobbymoons’ (as we might call them) vary, based on employment circumstances, budget and personal passions, they often share one objective: to exorcise the vestiges of the last job before starting the next one.
She left out the daddymoon, a trend alongside mummymoon that The New York Times (and the Word Watch) observed last this year.
Jobbymoon does its best to blend job and honeymoon, but Firshein’s portmanteau, if tongue-in-cheek, did not please many an American ear.
ah, i suppose i should give myself a proper “jobbymoon” instead of all this “bleisure” travel https://t.co/tKp9bYF3mr
— Tracy Chou 👩🏻💻 (@triketora) June 14, 2018
Nor the Scottish, where jobby is very a different piece of work, shall we say. It’s slang for a poo, apparently from a 19th-century expression, do a job.
Either ironically or obliviously, The Guardian noted the jobbymoon, which sent the Scottish internet to bits – or bafflement – over the unfortunate term.
If you’re having a jobbymoon remember Shetland Janitorial can supply everything you need to get things back to normal. https://t.co/3jBqoODa4J
— Shetland Janitorial (@shet_janitorial) June 12, 2018
Whether discussing denuclearization or jobs, it’s never wise to assume we’re always operating under the same definitions.