Sunday, January 31, 2010

Top 10 (Almost) New English Words

At the close of each year, we often see lists of new English words. Many of them reflect the events and mood of the year. For example, the word “funemployed”—people who welcome their new unemployed status as a vacation—became popular because of the economic crisis in 2009. Similarly, using “green-collar” to describe jobs which benefit the environment shows people’s increased concern for our mother earth.

Some of these new words will continue to be used and become standard English vocabulary; others will not. “Obamanation,” used by critics of the American president to describe those policies they disagree with (i.e. all of them), will become a side note of history once he is no longer in office. Likewise, “recessionistas,” who started looking for their fashionable clothes at chain stores in 2009, will begin shopping at pricey boutiques again as the economy improves.

Here are my picks for the top 10 of new words that I think will continue to be used over the new decade:

App: An abbreviation of application—software that performs a specific task—this word has been used by computer programmers since the 1980s. However, it wasn’t until Apple opened its App Store in 2008 that the word began to be used by everyone.

Bromance: A close relationship between two straight males, or “bros.”

Chillaxing: A blend of chilling and relaxing, it means really enjoying doing nothing.

Flash mob: A group of people organized through text messaging to gather at a specific location, perform a specific action and then leave—like the group that moonwalked at Dundas Square after Michael Jackson’s death.

Frankenfood: What critics call genetically modified food.

Freemium: A business model which offers free basic services, but value added services are sold for a premium. Skype uses this strategy.

Netbook: A small, cheap laptop.

Shovel-ready: An adjective to describe a construction project that can be started immediately. This word has become a favorite of politicians, especially those who are looking for money for a project.

Tweet: A noun or verb, tweet refers to an online posting by a Twitter user. In fact, I could write a whole column about all the new “twitter” words that appeared last year, but I won’t.

Unfriend: To remove someone from your friends list on a social networking site. It was named “word of the year” by the Oxford Dictionary.