Language: neologisms and sensitivities

by Josh Kimball

I’m not a natural writer. A terrible one? Frequently. An accidental one? Pretty much. A passable one? Once in a while. A natural one? Never. (Here’s a natural one.)

Anyway, it’s always a struggle (even to write a couple hundred words for work or a longer blog post for the ‘nerd). But despite that struggle – or maybe because of it – I take a special interest in language I find that’s compelling, or even just new. Sometimes full-blown prose captures my imagination (more on that soon), but often I’m just as interested in simply collecting (and watching develop) neologisms.

Here are a couple words – new or new to me – that have pumped through my feed reader recently:

*Funemployment: The idea that the idle time coming from being laid off is enjoyed by some.

*Ethonomics: Ethical economics. Or the overlap between what’s good (social ethics) with traditional economics.

*Plastectomy: The ritual burning, cutting or other destruction of credit cards. [murketing]

*Further, Mark Peters on GOOD recently wrote about America’s collective “Syndrome Syndrome” and the weight the word “syndrome” now pulls in the English language. Writes Peters “Other words are workaholics, pulling triple shifts and all-nighters, describing stuff that is deadly serious, kind of serious, totally ridiculous, and everything in between. Syndrome is one of these overachievers.”

A tangentially related item he doesn’t talk about is one we’ve addressed extensively (and for years) at my day job: the creep of “sensitivity.” The sensitivity – not a full-blown allergy, but still something that carries the sound of a “condition” – now, to an often absurd degree – protects people from annoyances ranging from the serious to the frivolous, from co-workers wearing too much perfume to the burden of having to wear clothing with unnatural fibers.

While we as a culture may have a syndrome syndrome, personally, I have a sensitivity sensitivity.

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