ENGLISH AND ITS ODDITIES; The word factory keeps producing

ENGLISH AND ITS ODDITIES ; The word factory keeps producing

Editorial, March 4 2009

One million. These days, with billions in bailouts and trillions in debts, a million of anything doesn’t seem like all that much.

But a million English words? Hat and cat and poll and prestidigitation?

Sure, the dictionary’s full of words. But a regular Webster’s has only about 200,000 words in it. And the gold standard of English dictionaries, the Oxford English Dictionary, which comes in volumes, contains only about 600,000. And the average American’s vocabulary? 20,000 words. Ouch

Obviously, the Global Language Monitor knows more than the Oxford folks. That’s the organization contending English will add its one millionth word sometime next month

The group can’t, of course, foretell what that word will be. Maybe it’ll be a kid word, like “janky,” also sometimes spelled “jainky” or “jinky.” (These things are always fluid.) It apparently means anything from “substandard” to “weird” and often relates to other people. “That guy is sure janky!”

Superlatives are often expressed in new-slang: “Wooka,” for instance, is said to be the hottest way to say “Wow!” And “nang” means “absolutely fantastic!”

The Urban Dictionary, an online and hard-bound resource for slang- sensitive people, tries to keep current as the vernacular evolves. This is not easy; it offers a new word each day. “Gank,” it says, means “to steal.” “I didn’t have any money, so I ganked it.”

“Yinz” is the new way to say “y’all,” “you guys” or “you.”

“Janhvi” is a really amazing person who knows how to be a great friend

English has absorbed a variety of computer geekisms: “lol,” meaning “laugh out loud,” and, a kid-related warning, “prw,” meaning, “parents are watching.” And, by the way, “geek” itself is so far “out” of the argot that it has turned up in the dictionary. And it has a possible origin: It might be an alteration of the Low German “gek.” That’s pretty establishment

Of course, most of the words mentioned here have undoubtedly vanished from the patois, never to pass young lips again. As soon as adults become aware of a new slang word, you can bet it’s no longer “in,” “hot,” “with it.”

It’s sooooo lame, as nobody would say anymore.



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