It’s no secret around here that I have a soft spot for the field of linguistics. While, sadly, editorial work doesn’t have me poring over sound spectrograms to analyze the formants of human speech, we do get to enjoy working with words on a daily basis and working with other editors who just happen to enjoy words as well. Yes, we editors get a bit geeky about words. It’s true.
I especially have fun noticing newly coined words or terms. New words are created in a number of systematic ways:
affixation--adding a prefix or suffix to an existing word, such as actionize
acronym--a word formed from the first letter of each word of a term, such as lol
backformation--removing part of a word that resembles an affix (or other morpheme), such as couth from uncouth
clipping--chopping off part of a word to create a shorter form with the same meaning, such as app from application
compounding--putting two existing root words together to form a new word, e.g. flashmob
conversion—using an existing word as a different part of speech without changing the form of the word, as Tebow (verb, “to kneel down for a prayer before a game”) from Tebow (noun)
And my favorite—which seems to be a lot of other people’s favorite as well, going by the number of new coinages of this type:
blends (aka portmanteau words)—words formed from parts (but not necessarily full, meaningful fragments) of two or more existing words.
I’ve been seeing words that are new to me—though note that this doesn’t mean they’re actually very new--everywhere lately. Young people are responsible for a lot of these new terms, so fittingly, newly coinages are all over MTV and Tiger Beat. But they’re also making their way into local papers, the New York Times, and even the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Here are just a few of my recent favorites:
treecovery (tree + recovery, as in the Northside Treecovery Program to replace trees in neighborhoods damaged by a tornado)
guyliner (guy + eyeliner, as in Adam Lambert and Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow)
adorbs (clipped from adorable)
Have you heard or read new words recently that made you smile, or that seemed particularly clever? Or have you used one and gotten an interesting reaction? Let us know!