Welcome to NewsFeed’s weekly highlight of the vocabulary of our lives — including useful, new, hilarious and surprising words (as well as some that are just fun to roll off the old tongue).
Latest -gate: Weinergate
Rep. Anthony Weiner, who recently admitted that he engaged in sexual exchanges via social media, has joined the ranks of the -gates, including Watergate, Bittergate, and Nipplegate. Although Weinergate has the uncanny bonus of describing both the scandal-maker and scandal itself. (In another stroke of linguistic luck, anagrams of Anthony Weiner’s name include “Hey … not a winner.”)
-gates of our dreams: While Rep. Weiner’s -gate might be hard to beat, the stars could align to give us a few rivals. A scheme involving PCs might give us “Gatewaygate.” A disgrace involving the trafficking of goods around the Midwest might produce “Eight-State-Crate-Gate.” And if there were multiple scandals related to counterfeit American money, we could call them “Billgates.”
(LIST: Top 10 Tweets About Weinergate)
Wordiest new hobby: newlogism
According to the London Evening Standard, “newlogism” (a play on neologism, meaning new word) is “splicing together two unrelated words to make up a new term that’s suddenly become crucial for a city dweller’s vocabulary.” These include manellone, a term for a meal eaten by a lonely guy, and psycholists, a term for those bikers who show little regard for their safety or that of pedestrians.
Newlogism = not so new: Professional word-watchers have found an explosion of these so-called “fusion words” recently, which are made using the long-standing practice of throwing together parts of two different words. Unfortunately, using most fusion words just makes you sound like a trying-too-hard goober. Consider: guesstimate, staycation, and, perhaps most regrettably, chillaxing.
Science vocab update: Anthropocene Age
Convinced that the current world is affected mostly by humans, an atmospheric chemist suggested that we rename our geologic time from the Holocene Age (one characterized by shifts in and out of ice ages) to the Anthropocene Age, meaning “the recent age of man.” “From their mile-deep mines to their melting of glaciers,” reads the Economist article outlining the term, “humans [are] bringing about an age of planetary change.”
The reaction: This week, the Economist ran through readers’ responses, in which a gentleman from Hanoi proposes a less-than-flattering new definition for humans: “a parasitic bipedal organism [who] briefly distorted the systems of the Earth to such an extent that it obliterated itself and most of the other living things that it depended upon.” (Fingers crossed he turns out to just be some melodramatic pessimist.)
Hamptons slang: calling someone “mirrorless” or “an Earhart”
According to the “Hamptons Chatter” blog, locals will call the overwrought summer renters “mirrorless” when they do things like “wear fur coats in June, speedos with bulging guts and high heels on the beach.” The author also recounts how cabbies will call visitors “Earharts,” as in lost pilot Amelia Earhart, when they are too drunk to give proper directions back to their rental houses.
Taxi cab aspersions: Calling a incapacitated drunk an “Earhart” seems like an awfully euphemistic and historical insult for taxi drivers to be throwing around. Much like if a fare tried to rob them at gunpoint and rather than using expletives to describe the encounter, they calmly referred to “that Baby Face Nelson I drove around the other night.”
Summer trend to smell out for: going “sockless”
In a Wall Street Journal fashion piece, the author discusses baring the ankles for the summer, whether at the beach or in a high-powered business lunch. “Beyond a disregard for blisters, this purposeful act of neglect conveys a certain comfort—bordering, perhaps, on satisfaction—with oneself,” he writes, “whether it’s being adopted by a continental swell or a no-frills man of action.”
NewsFeed’s caveat: If you’re actually going to attempt going sockless to an important client meeting—a bold move indeed—you probably also want to sweep your hair back, put on some kind of European accent, and say Wildean things like “Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin.” Then maybe, just maybe, the client will respect you—or will laugh their socks off, in which case you’ll at least have company.