Dictionaries are struggling to keep up with the new words and slang that injects itself into popular culture almost on a daily basis. So much so that most dictionaries that have an online pretense, Oxford, Merriam-Webster, the Urban Dictionary, Cambridge, et al, issue regular updates on new words that have found acceptance and will appear in the print version.
The year 2014 was quite a productive year in that sense and although ‘selfie’ made it as word of the year, there were plenty more which we in India are not so familiar with. How about ‘duck face’? The word stems from the current selfie craze in that it describes an exaggerated pouting expression where the lips are pursed and thrust outwards, generally by a person posing for a selfie. The expression does resemble a duck’s face with the protruding bill. Then there are the new antonyms, ‘hawt’, ‘man crush’ and ‘catnip’, which are all related to feelings between the sexes. If you want to describe how attractive a person of the opposite sex is, the new word is ‘hawt’, deliberately misspelling ‘hot’ to give it a more contemporary sound. The phrase, ‘man crush’ is also to do with attraction or admiration, but only between males. On the other hand, ‘catnip’ refers to something that is appealing or attractive to a particular group of people.
In the area of more intimate relationships, ‘catfish’, a technology-related term, refers to a person who sets up a false social networking profile for deceptive purposes. ‘Catfish’ was popularised by the documentary and television series of the same name. In fact, many of the new words and phrases are abbreviations of normal words, as in the case of ‘xint’, which is short for excellent. “It’s a xint novel” or “I saw a xint play last night” are common usages of the word.
There are also words that rhyme or are similar to existing words, but given a modern twist like ‘choon’, which refers to a piece of popular music as in ‘tune’. There’s also ‘fone’, which is how people refer to phones, or rather smartphones, just spelt differently. Women in India, especially those travelling on public transport, are likely to embrace this new word, literally. The word is ‘handsy’, and it refers to men who tend to touch people of the opposite sex in an inappropriate or unwanted manner. A common usage would be, “He is getting a bit handsy”.
Then there are new words to do with modern dress codes. One such is ‘Canadian tuxedo’ and it refers to the new vogue of pairing a coat with denim jeans or, in some cases, a coat and waistcoat. With so much use of social media, it was inevitable that abbreviations appear thick and fast due to their space-saving properties. These include ‘tomoz’ (tomorrow), ‘jel’ (jealous), ‘IDC’ (I don’t care), ‘PMSL’ (p…ing myself laughing) and ‘WRT’ (with reference to). There are lots of new adjectives to do with food and food culture, but easily the most memorable in today’s context is ‘al desko’. It is a variation of ‘al fresco’ (for food eaten outside, literally ‘in fresh (air)’ in Italian). ‘Al desko’ refers to food eaten while working at one’s desk in an office.