Weekly Word Watch: Snapchat dysmorphia, hothouse, and firenado
Brace yourselves. The theme for this week’s Word Watch is health and the environment, and things get a bit hot and heavy. You may want to have some cute animals photos to hand, but we can’t stop words from dishing up cold, hard facts.
As digital technology continues to change our lives, it also continues to change our language. Boston-based medical researchers recently published an article warning of Snapchat dysmorphia.
‘The pervasiveness of these filtered images’ of unattainably perfect pictures on apps like Snapchat, they write, ‘can take a toll on one’s self esteem, make one feel inadequate for not looking a certain way in the real world, and may even act as a trigger and lead to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)’. BDD, officially classified as such in 1987, is an obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with perceived flaws in one’s appearance, impairing one’s functioning and often leading to repeated plastic surgery. Dysmorphia literally means ‘bad form’ in Greek.
The article’s use of Snapchat dysmorphia isn’t original, however. The researchers borrowed a coinage from Tijion Esho, a British cosmetic doctor, who cautioned against Snapchat dysmorphia in February this year after noting a rise in women seeking procedures to make them look like their filtered selves in Snapchat and other apps like Instagram and Facetune.
It’s notable, then, that Snapchat dysmorphia is catching on in the medical community, hinting it may get traction in the mainstream. It’s also notable that Snapchat is sticking as a stand-in attribution for ‘filtered images’ with a connotation of ‘unhealthy’ and ‘unrealistic’. Snapchat has no doubt wriggled its way into our lexicon: we can some someone sent a snap or someone snapped me. But tech platforms don’t always imagine the darker legacy of their brand names, as suggested in a phrase like Snapchat dysmorphia.
Elsewhere in health news, Ireland unveiled its implementation strategy for an ambitious healthcare overhaul it calls Sláintecare. While many critics and consultants see it as short on details, funding, and promises, the Minister for Health urges all to remember the plan has a 10-year scope.
Sláintecare emerged from a special Irish government healthcare committee established in 2016. We won’t wade into its policies and proposals, but we will dive into Sláintecare as a word. Many may know sláinte, pronounced roughly likely ‘slawn-chuh’, as an Irish way to toast ‘Cheers!’ – and may also often be the only Irish word they know. But sláinte is ‘health’ or ‘well-being’, and so Sláinte! has the sense of ‘To your health!’ We see similar sentiments in other languages, like the Spanish salud, ‘health’ and related to the English salute and safe.
Sláintecare is also interesting as a cross-linguistic blend, joining the Irish Sláinte with the –care component of healthcare – and giving it an Irish identity with English-language comprehensibility. That compounding is also a twist on the political trend of labeling a politician’s healthcare programmes or positions after them, e.g., Obamacare or Trumpcare, with –care here often figuring as a kind of bogeyman.
As more information about Sláintecare is revealed, we’ll see if critics of Sláintecare take a page from the American –care tonal playbook.
We’re going to need all the Sláintecare we can get if climate predictions released this week come true. This week, a team of scientists warned that, due to human emissions, we’re on a trajectory to Hothouse Earth, where ‘self-reinforcing feedbacks’ – such as warming freeing up methane trapped in permafrost, leading to further warming – would destabilize temperatures and frustrate all our efforts to contain them.
Hothouse is a very effective word choice and act of messaging, with its hot evoking a scorched planet, house reminding us that Earth is our only home, and the overall compound evoking the greenhouse effect, an underlying mechanism changing our climate.
The compound hothouse dates back to the mid-1400s when it first named a type of bathhouse, and, in the 16th century, a brothel or drying chamber. The sense of hothouse the climatologists are more directly drawing on, though, is dated to at least the 1620s, referring to an artificially heated greenhouse used for growing plants of tropical climes or out-of-season produce.
Agricultural collapse triggered by Hothouse Earth conditions would, no doubt, force us into more and more artificial cultivation – and cooling – efforts.
While we’re on the topic of hell on Earth, why not highlight one of its more remarkable meteorological phenomena captured on camera? It’s firenado, good company for the diabolically dubbed dust devil we highlighted in a recent Word Watch.
A firenado is a twisting column of flames, and one formed this week during a fire at an industrial plastics facility near Swadlincote in Derbyshire, England. This comes right on the heels of a firenado in the Carr wildfire raging in California.
A firenado occurs when cool air collides with rising warm air. The unusual word occurs when you combined fire and tornado, though the whirlwind is not an actual tornado and commonly called a fire whirl.
The Oxford English Dictionary currently enters fire tornado in 1871, while the blended firenado appears at least by 1995 and became more common in the 2000-10s. Snownado and gustnado are sometimes used for other strangely spinning weather events – though many may best know -nado as a combining form in the Sharknado film series.
With a wordnado like we’ve had on this week’s Word Watch, we wouldn’t be surprised if the news served us up a real sharknado one of the days. Speaking of animals, we’re going to wash all this bleak verbiage down with some pics of doggos and puppers.