Archive for February, 2012

“The quickest path from knowledge to profit is simple. First, find a system that works. Then take action.”

Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound 

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In my Fun with Language post “Creating New Words”, I wrote about how people creatively come up with new words to describe situations. In truth, our language is constantly changing with real new words being added all the time. For instance, before 1945 the word “television” didn’t exist. “Internet” entered common usage only in the early 90s. Lexicographers  have added over 2,000 new words, phrases and new meanings to the third edition of The Oxford American Dictionary and more are to come!

New words that our popular culture has inserted into the English language include: unfriend (thanks to FaceBook), agroterrorism, megachurch, staycation (stay at home vacation), tweet (not a new word but an added definition to the sound a bird makes, thanks to Twitter) and waterboarding. New words might enter our social conversations on a daily basis, but they do take years to be “approved” for inclusion in The Oxford American Dictionary.

 New phrases which also can be a combination of new and old words or words used in a new way to describe something, become sanctioned as part of our language as time goes on. Some examples that didn’t exist 10 years ago: get one’s arms around, my bad, job something out, less is more, what’s not to like?, have skin in the game, talk the talk, and the ubiquitous “heart” as a synonym for love, as in “I heart publicity.”

Thanks to texting’s (here is an old word with a new definition!) and Twitter’s condensed character recquirements, there are also a variety of abbreviations that now substitute for words, including TTYL (talk to you later), LBD (little black dress), BFF (a girl’s best friend, which originated from best friend forever), and LMAO (laughing my *** off).

As to computer spell checkers coming into the 21st century, dream on. As I’m writing this, my computer dictionary is telling me I have a bunch of spelling errors, all of which are the “new words”. The last time I played scrabble against my computer, it wouldn’t accept any of these new words but some of the words it used were too obscure for a human to have used.

So, writers, authors, publishers and English teachers, do you feel uncomfortable using any of these words in your writing? Why? Do you consider them nothing more than slang and should not have a place in The Oxford American Dictionary?

OK, if you’ve been asking “What the heck is a ‘tramp stamp’ or a ‘bromance’” surf (ah, another old word that now has a new definition!) to the Oxford University Press’s blog to find the answer and learn more new and off the wall words and phrases.

Quote of the Week

Posted: February 20, 2012 in Quotes
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“I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.” — Anne Rice

These words come from The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational where readers were asked to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply its new definition. Here are a few that are quite appropriate to our times or hopefully, will get a chuckle:

Cashtration: The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

Intaxication:  Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

Sarchasm:  The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

Osteopornosis:  A degenerate disease.

Dopeler effect:  The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

Beelzebug:  Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

Caterpallor:  The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

Quote of the Week

Posted: February 13, 2012 in Quotes
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“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.” — Marsha Norman

A few posts ago I wrote about a campaign the magazine industry was doing to prove people still read printed matter. Now it turns out there is proof positive that print is alive and well – and thriving in the UK! Really, the UK’s Royal Mail sponsored a study comparing subjects’ brain activity when shown pictures and ads both on printed cards and on screen. In this comparison with on screen material the printed material produced more emotional processing. Researchers stated that, “physical material is more ‘real’ to the brain. It has a meaning and a place. It is better connected to memory. It generates more emotion. The materials have a more personal effect, which therefore should aid motivation.” So, there you have it, a scientific study proving that ink trumps pixels in getting our gray matter to respond to a message.

Read the full case study “Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail”

And my thanks to Marcia Yudkin’s Marketing Minute e-newsletter to bring this fascinating study to my attention.

Quote of the Week

Posted: February 6, 2012 in Quotes
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“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” — Isaac Asimov