May 27, 2024

Column: “That Got Me to Thinkin’…?” New Words


Bruce Williams


“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “New Words” Chapter 42
By Bruce Williams



Back in our neighborhood, we used to play wiffle ball and huck the Nerf out in the street.  We’d play Risk and Monopoly, watch Star Trek reruns and write pass-along stories and comics.  And we played a game that we made up called Dictionary—it involved picking a word out of Webster that none of us knew the meaning to, then all the guys who weren’t holding the book would make up phony definitions to that word that we thought would dupe the others into believing it was the real connotation.  There was a point system awarded for fooling each other…I forget how it went, exactly, but I think someone else eventually went and made this concept into a regular parlor game.  

The pass-along stories with friends got me through many church services, into creative writing, journalism, an English degree, faithful newspaper reading, aggressive novel consumption and general bookishness.  The Dictionary game indoctrinated me with a love for arcane terms and idioms.  Every year I love to see the new words added to Oxford and Webster based on the vernacular of the day.  So many of this year’s entries are social media and pandemic driven.  Here are several handfuls of the new locutions:

performative disapproving: made or done for show (as to bolster one’s own image or make a positive impression on others)

doomscrolling: obsessively scanning social media and websites for bad news

hygge: that feeling of snuggling up on the couch in front of a flickering fire or wearing your favorite slippers while drinking hot tea

digital blackface: cultural appropriation using black gifs or memes

embiggen: to make or become bigger

denialist: A person who denies the existence or reality of something, esp. something which is supported by the majority of scientific or historical evidence

fantoosh: used to describe anything showy or flashy, often disparagingly

kvetchy: given to or characterized by complaining or criticizing; ill-tempered, irritable

mentionitis: a tendency towards repeatedly or habitually mentioning something (esp. the name of a person one is infatuated with), regardless of its relevance to the topic of conversation

sadfishing: colloquially the practice adopted by some people, especially on social media, of exaggerating claims about their emotional problems to generate sympathy

automagically: automatically in a way that seems magical

accidial: to dial someone’s number or phone accidentally

catastrophize: present a situation as worse than it is

clickbait: online content to attract more visitors to a particular website

ear tickler: someone who pleases other people with paying lots of compliments or flattering

echo chamber: an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, especially in social media

droolworthy: extremely attractive or desirable

fomo: the fear of missing out, the anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere

frankenfood: genetically modified food

humblebrag: make a seemingly modest or self-critical to draw attention to something of which one is proud

illiterati: people who are not well educated or well informed about a particular subject

memer: person who creates or distributes memes, usually humorous material copied and circulated online

rage-quit: angrily abandon an activity or pursuit that has become frustrating, especially the playing of a video game

soft skills: attributes that enable someone to interact harmoniously with others

toxic debt: a debt or debts that have little chance of being paid back

word salad: a confused or unintelligible mixture of seemingly random words and phrases

I’m sure you’ve most likely heard a handful of these before, but if you’re a word nerd like me you probably made it to the end of the list and were hopefully half-amused.  Try to fit a few of these into your next conversations as long as you use them in fun instead of like some over-serious man bun, self-righteousing everyone with your earnestness.  And never be afraid to coin a new turn of phrase if it fits the situation more beautifully than anything before it.  It just might catch fire and appear in the 2022 versions.