new words

new words
(also called neologisms). It is always tempting, as much in the history of the language as in political and social history, to identify tendencies with centuries, but language change is a continuous process, and what is significant is the social and technological factors that have produced change. In the last twenty years or so, the most significant social and historical developments that have given rise to new words and meanings are as follows (necessarily a selective list with fairly crude divisions in which some items belong in more than one category):
1. science and technology:
airglow, astrochemistry, cardphone, cash machine, cellphone, chaos theory, dark matter, digital compression, electronic banking (and many other electronic phenomena), genetic engineering, meme, smart card, voicemail.
2. computing:
access (verb, as in accessing data; this has spread into general use), boot (verb, noun), browser, bulletin board, bundle, CD-ROM, chipset, cut and paste, cyberspace, dataglove, dialogue box, directory, download, email (= electronic mail), flaming, -friendly (as a suffix as in user-friendly), hacking, helpdesk, home page (on the World Wide Web), hypertext, information superhighway, Internet, laptop, log-on, millennium bug, motherboard, the Net, newsgroup, plug-and-play, scroll bar, search engine, shareware, software, spam, standalone, surfing, virtual reality, virus, World Wide Web, zip. More recently a sinister terminology has arisen reflecting criminal uses of the Internet: phreaking and phishing (illegal ‘hacking’ of various kinds), cyber-bullying, and intrusive types of software planting called adware, malware, spyware, and so on. All this vocabulary is flexible enough, and sufficiently based on everyday words, to enable virtually limitless extension as activities, legal and illegal, develop.
3. environmental issues:
biodiversity, carbon footprint, carbon offsetting, CFC (= chlorofluorocarbon), climate change, eco-warrior, global warming, greenhouse effect, greenhouse gas, ozone depletion, ozone-friendly, zero-emission vehicle.
4. popular culture:
babe (= attractive young woman), bad hair day (= day when everything goes wrong), body piercing, crack (= cocaine), Ecstasy, hoodie, lifestyle (first recorded in the 1930s and adopted in marketing jargon in the 1980s), massive (= popular or trendy), metrosexual, recreational drug, smart drug, supermodel.
5. politics and society:
abuse (as in child abuse, narcotics abuse), acquaintance rape, cardboard city (area of homeless people), challenged (PC term for a disability, as in mentally challenged, physically challenged, etc.), change management, charisma, charm offensive, dependency culture, differently abled, double whammy, downshifting, downsizing, empowerment, Essex man, feel-good (factor), feng shui, fundholder, gap year (between school and university), gesture politics, glass ceiling (barrier to personal advancement), home shopping (by means of a telecommunications link), homophobia, human resources (= personnel), jobseeker, league table (of schools' performance), living will, loyalty card, mission statement (= statement of a company's business principles), nanny state, narcoterrorism, negative equity, outsourcing, pindown (treatment of children in care), pink pound, pro-active, ram-raiding, reskilling, road rage, safe haven, serial monogamy, sexism (and other words in -ism, e.g. ableism, fattism, sizeism), sleaze, social chapter, speed bump, spin doctor, stakeholder economy, subsidiarity, surrogate mother, teleworking.
6. international politics:
collateral damage, ethnic cleansing, Euroscepticism (and other Euro- words), fatwa, friendly fire, intifada, jihad, killing field (= place of mass slaughter), peace dividend, peace process, road map (= a plan for peace), safe haven, velvet revolution, weapons of mass destruction (or WMD, made prominent by events in Iraq in 2003).
7. health and medicine:
Aids (and Aids-related), attention deficit disorder, BSE (= bovine spongiform encephalitis), CJD (= Creutzfeld–Jakob disease), community care, dyspraxia, frozen embryo, functional food, interleukin (proteins), keyhole surgery, kinesiology, mad cow disease, ME (= myalgic encephalomyelitis), MMR (= mumps, measles, and rubella [vaccine]), MRSA (= methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), post-traumatic stress disorder, Prozac (antidepressant drug), RSI (= repetitive strain injury), SAD (= seasonal affective disorder), safe sex, sick building syndrome, trans-fatty acid, water birth.
8. media and communications:
DAT (= digital audio tape), electronic publishing, infotainment, mini-series, multimedia, podcast, soundbite.
9. food and drink:
alcopop (= alcoholic soft drink), ciabatta, decaf (= decaffeinated coffee), fajitas, foodie, functional food, nacho, tiramisu, tortilla.
10. leisure:
adventure game, Aga saga (= type of novel concerned with middle-class rural characters), biopic, bungee jumping, edutainment, fantasy football, gangsta (dancing), golden goal, grunge (rock music), home cinema, jungle (music), karaoke, performance poetry, rap (music), quality time, rollover, scratch card, snowboarding.
11. general slang and informal uses:
anorak, attitude (= idiosyncratic attitude or outlook), chav (loud and tasteless young person), dweeb, geek, gobsmacked, item (= romantic relationship), nerd, no-brainer, oick, saddo, spazz out, techie, wannabe (= someone with an ambition). It will be noticed how many of these are terms of personal abuse addressed to or used of people.
12. catchphrases:
back to basics (slogan for a return to honest principles in public life), been there, done that (assertion of experience), economical with the truth, elephant in the room (something obvious that no one dares to mention), get a life, level playing field, move the goalposts, out of the box (unusual or inventive), you name it.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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