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January 18, 2010

Words of the Decade

One of my favorite characteristics of the English language is how we create, mangle, adapt, distort and just plain make up words. Many of these come from popular movies, celebrities, political figures or economic or cultural changes. "Truthiness" for example, was a word that had to happen. It originally came from...

...Stephen Colbert's show The Colbert Report.

"Truthiness" means "something like the truth, but not".

My nomination for the stupidest word (actually it's a term) of the decade is "freedom fries". In America, not too many years ago, this term was seriously (apparently) considered as an alternative to "French fries". Fortunately for our language, it has pretty much been abandoned.

The historic political term (used by Ronald Reagan and John McCain, among many others) “lipstick on a pig”, was single-handedly ruined by Sarah Palin (though she revived many classic corny terms like "you betcha" "y'know" and her unique use of "also" in nearly every sentence).

“Unfriend” was chosen by one major word-watching organization as the word of the year for 2009. The context of course, is Facebook. I was "unfriended" a few times in 2009. This is where one of your contacts decides that they don't want to hear about your adventures or see your photos - or perhaps, in my case, they don't want to see the articles or links I find fascinating.

You can see many of your favorite (or least favorite) words here http://www.good.is/post/the-decade-in-words.

One word we will probably see in 2010 is "nontroversy". This is great word that joins "not" and "controversy". It basically means media noise instead of news.

If you are not in the mood for words, but want to see what, at least from the point of view of 1972, what 2010 holds, take a look at http://2010book.tumblr.com/post/310745454/cover.

Some scenes and projections are fairly close, some are preposterous and some are just plain odd. There's something about the numbers 2010 that must have seemed perfect for science fiction - and not much like normal day to day life.

So, whether your life looks like science fictions - or a lot like your parents' lives, have a great new year!

And don't forget - send your language puzzles, discoveries and frustrations this way!

It is good to remember that we are all always learning - and our language is always changing. And it is always more fun to learn together. We can learn as much from the past as from the present.

Let me know what it is about English that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities.

Posted by mmorf at January 18, 2010 07:16 PM

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