Jim Goldsworthy

“Existential” is Dictionary.com’s 2019 Word of the Year, and “climate emergency” is Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year. (Yeah, I know. “climate emergency” is two words.)

The Associated Press reported this recently.

I didn’t finish the story because it was replete with phrases like “top of mind awareness,” “it speaks to this sense of grappling with our survival, both literally and figuratively,” “frame debate in existential terms,” “ethos, mood or preoccupations of the passing year” and the “opportunity to turn existential threats into existential choices.”

My mother taught me to speak English, and my friends larn’t me to talk American, and I am fluent in both, so I don’t need subtitles to understand the dialogue in the TV shows about the mountain monster hunters, alligator hunters or moonshiners — but what’s in the previous paragraph lies beyond my comfort level.

“Angst” also played a role in the AP story, relating to the feelings of a plastic fork that starred in the movie “Toy Story 4” and was saved from the trash to become a treasured child’s toy.

Until I began hearing it with regularity, I might have said “angst” had something to do with “Angst me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies,” which, if you stretch it a bit, isn’t too far off.

I found several lists of Words of the Year, and most are words I normally wouldn’t use. Some quickly fell out of common use, but others linger with us.

“Youthquake,” for example is Oxford’s Word of the Year from 2017. I can’t remember hearing anyone saying “youthquake” and never used it myself, although I remembered it because it actually dates from 1966.

The American Dialect Society’s list of past Words of the Year includes some I have heard, and you should recognize.

The descriptions were supplied by the source, and I have added a few comments of my own in parentheses.

• Bushlips: as in President George W. Bush’s “Read my lips: No new taxes.”

• Mother of All ... : As in Saddam Hussein’s “Mother of All Battles.” (A golfing buddy of mine was deployed during the Iraq War, and we promised to celebrate with the “Mother of All Bottles” when he came home ... and we did.)

• Not!: As in “Just kidding.” (I don’t use this, but once in a while will write or say “Not so much.”)

• Information Superhighway: electronic communication associated with former U.S. Sen. Al Gore. (Associated with, maybe. Otherwise, not so much.)

• Morph: to metamorphasize or change.

• Millennium Bug: as in all computers were supposed to go haywire during the Millennium Year.

• E-: as in email or e-commerce. (Call it the Hyphenated Letter of the Year.)

• Y2K: the year 2000 — the Millennium Year.

• Chad: as in “the hanging chad” on Florida election ballots.

• Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

• Metrosexual: a portmanteau — now there’s a word for you; it means a blending of words — in this case, metropolitan and heterosexual, a man who is meticulous about his grooming and appearance and spends a lot of time and money on it.

• Red State (Republican), Blue State (Democratic) and Purple State (can’t make up its mind).

• Plutoed (devalued, as in the planet Pluto that was demoted to “dwarf planet”).

• Subprime: a risky investment.

• Bailout: government rescue of a company that is about to fail.

• Tweet.

• App.

• Hashtag ... : as in “Hashtag awesome!” (I got tired of “hashtag” in a hurry.)

• Because (as in “because reasons” or “because awesome”).

• They: a gender-neutral pronoun used instead of “he” or “she.”

• Dumpster Fire: a disastrous or chaotic situation (as in what’s going on in national politics).

• Fake News.

• Tender Age Shelter: a euphemism for facilities in which children of illegal immigrants are detained by the government.

How some of these became Words of the Year, I have no idea. Most could have qualified for Cliches of the Year. (I looked for such a list but couldn’t find one.)

I found lists of words that people hate. Most cannot be repeated here, but “moist” is one of them because people associate it with bodily functions, rather than moist cakes, or because they just don’t like the way it sounds.

I hated “Oh, wow!” and “Awesome!” right from the get-go. Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy occasionally talked to tourists who responded to nearly everything we told them with “Oh, wow” or “Awesome.”

Today, “quid pro quo” grates on my nerves the same way “moist” irritates other people. Oh, wow! It’s an awesome quid pro quo!

Bestlifeonline.com has a list of 40 Words That People Over 40 Won’t Recognize. The following explanations were provided, and I have added comments to some of them:

• Goals: as in buying your girlfriend roses for Valentine’s Day fulfills “couple goals.” (I always had a couple of goals in mind when I bought flowers for a girlfriend.)

• Ship: short for relationship. (Many of my relationships have themselves been short.)

• FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. (No comment.)

• BAE: the one you love Before Anyone Else.

• OTP: One True Pairing, as in BAE.

• Ghosting: suddenly cutting off a relationship without giving a reason or explanation.

• Ghostlighting: ghosting someone and then coming back into that person’s life and pretending that the ghosting never happened.

• Facts: said only to reinforce the idea that someone is speaking the truth. (“Word” also is said in this context, and I use it, myself.)

• Bromance: two guys are best buddies, as in “brother romance.” (This is another portmanteau; I cringed the first time I heard it.) 

• Bumble: said to be the least-creepy of dating apps, and it’s up to the female to make the first move. (Presumably, this is how Bumble seeks to minimalize the possibility of Bungle on the male’s part.)

• GOAT: Greatest Of All Time. (Another one that wore thin almost immediately.)

• Zayum: pronounced the way it’s spelled, a word used to exaggerate how amazing something is. (A former girlfriend from the South, where many words have an extra syllable, called me “Jeeum.” I gave her flowers, but didn’t achieve my intended couple goal.)

• Narrative: a parent tells a teenager to go to class and the teenager replies, “I’d like to be excluded from this narrative.”

• Woke: someone who has awakened or is aware of what’s going on in the world.

Hopefully, our discussion has left you a little more woke than you were before we started.

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