Language Trends: Old Words & New Words

Most of us recognize that English is always growing and changing. When I went to school--admittedly many years ago--there was no such topic as "language trends."

Now new words are added to the dictionary each year. Merriam-Webster added more than 1,000 new words in 2017.

M-W received a lot of criticism for some of the words which sound a bit, well, made up. For example, listicle: an article consisting of a series of items presented as a list.

I'd never heard of listicle before. Have you? All dictionaries add new words even the good old OED (Oxford English Dictionary).

Old Words

I was looking through a vintage book of facts published by Readers Digest in 1937 and had to laugh at some of the tests and teasers. I wonder how many people in today's world could answer this question: What is the origin of these 5 words?
  • Bloomers
  • Sandwich
  • Guillotine
  • Vandyke
  • gerrymander 
I know the answer, do you?

Bloomers are, of course, what underpants for women were called in the 19th century. They usually were baggy, gathered at the waist, and reached to the knee of below. They were named after Mrs. Amelia Jenks Bloomer of New York who was billed as a dress reformer.

Thanks to TV commercials, just about everyone knows that the Sandwich was named after the 4th Earl of Sandwich who is credited for slapping meat on bread and serving it to his fellow card players. (His servant probably did this.)

Guillotine was named after Dr. J. I. Guillotin who invented this tool the French executioners popularized.

Vandyke is a pointed beard and was named after the 17th century Flemish artist. Just look at any of his paintings, and you'll see that style of facial hair.

Gerrymander is a political term which means to divide an electoral area into districts so that one political party has an advantage in representation. This action was named after Elbridge Gerry who was Governor of Massachusetts in 1812. There are now laws which prevent this from occurring.

Of these 5 words, only sandwich is still in daily use. Sometimes you might hear a stylist refer to a Vandyke beard, but it's not very common.

New Words

You already know listicle so here are 5 more new words for you to add to your vocabulary.

Conlang, a noun meaning an invented language.

Face-palm, a verb meaning to cover one's face with the hand as an expression of embarrassment.

Humblebrag, a verb meaning to make a seemingly modest, self-critical, or casual statement or reference that is meant to draw attention to one's admirable or impressive qualities or achievements.

Mumblecore, a noun meaning a genre of narrative film focusing primarily on the intimate lives of young characters and featuring scenes of ample dialogue and minimal action.

Truther, a noun meaning one who believes that the truth about an important subject or event is being concealed from the public by a powerful conspiracy.

Takeaway Truth

I wonder how many of today's common words will fall out of common usage in the next decade or two, replaced by some words derived from pop culture as are the 5 new words.

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