Neologisms — new words and phrases

neologism_definition_examplesThe English language is ever-changing.  New words—and phrases–seem to crop up almost every day. They hang around, and eventually some are formally accepted as mainstream language. Sometimes they are brand new words and other times an old word takes on a new meaning.  The label for these new words is neologisms.

Social media and technology have contributed greatly to the formation of new words. Here are some examples:

  •  Google – To look up info on the internet. It has somehow become a verb too.
  • App – A software application, usually for a smart phone. This one seems to have come on fast.
  • Spam – The annoying junk emails used an existing word.
  • Troll — An anonymous person who posts inflammatory, rude, obnoxious or hurtful comments to an online offering.

Other neologisms relating to popular culture include:

  •  Muffin top – This terms is for the roll of fat that appears at the waistband of pants.
  • BFF – This is high tech shorthand for “best friend forever.”
  • Staycation – This means taking a vacation at home or near the home. It became popular during the time when the price of gas skyrocketed.
  • One last neologism came and went fast. That is Tebowing.   The kneeling and praying stance taken by once NFL quarterback Tim Tebow left along with him.



Begging the question–round and round


WordsByBob gets ideas for posts on this blog from many sources.  Recently, a question from a friend resulted in this post.  I occasionally meet for lunch with a group of people I used to work with.  In addition to solving all the world’s problems ever weak, this comment came up:

It seems that the term being the question gets misused—even in newscasts.  Even though I taught logic at the college level, I had to do some research to remember what begging the question means.

The fallacy of “begging the question”, is committed “when a proposition which requires proof is assumed without proof”.

If someone is begging the question, he or she is are using circular reasoning.

The term originated in the 16th century as a mistranslation of Latin petitio principii “– assuming the initial point”.

Here are some examples:

  •  A prosecutor speaking to defendant: So how did you feel when you killed your wife?
  • Jones is the most successful mayor the town has ever had because he’s the best mayor of our history.
  • Smith was the best candidate for president, because he was better than any of the others.



Scrabble adds new words

scrabble_new_wordsScrabble , the word game, has been part of my life for years.  I remember playing it with my parents years ago.  I think they were trying to strengthen my vocabulary and spelling.

Now, I occasionally take a break from work to play the online version of Scrabble.  It allows me to play the computer or others online.

Imagine  my surprise recently when I saw an article from the Associated Press by Leanne Italie telling of 5,000 new Scrabble words.

The article referred to the new version of Merriam-Webster’s “The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary: Fifth Addition.”  I imagine it is available online or at your local bookstore.

The rule for the 100,000+ playable words they must:

1. be found in a standard dictionary

2. can’t require capitalization

3. can’t have hyphens or apostrophes

4. can’t be an abbreviation.

One word that Scrabble players need to remember is “quinzhee.” Played in the right place on the board, this word for a shelter hollowed from a pile of snow, garners 401 points. This includes the 50 point “bingo” for using all seven words.

Another high scorer is qajaq, which is also a palindrome.

On a smaller scale, you can now use te, da, gi and po if you are stuck for a short word.

Some of the words added to the Scrabble dictionary reflect our modern terms like buzzkill, funplex, joypad, mixtape, mojito and sudoku.

This all makes me want to dust off my old scrabble board.


Bookmash — What is it?

bookmashWords are so much fun.  I even listen to podcasts about words as I do my almost-daily walk.

One of my favorite podcast shows is A Way With Words.  Recently, the two hosts discussed a term called “bookmash.”  I think in some places it is bookmash and in others it is book mash.

The term describes a fun activity where  you grab some of the books off your bookshelf or nightstand. Turn the stack on its side and read the titles. Sometimes they flow into a kind of poetic statement.

The Way With Words podcast referenced  Stan Carey’s blog Sentence First. His bookmash example was: Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes / Bugs / Creatures of The Earth / In The Shadow of Man

I had to try this. The bookshelf over my writing desk books that I own that have been signed by the author.

Here is my bookmash (without even rearranging the books):

The Ledge/The Thing/The A.M. God/Absent Memories/My Wish

Now you can try this fun exercise.

NOTE: Since I first wrote this blog post on a new way to create poetry, I found that it is also called book spine poetry.



Discretely discreet

Ok, I admit it—I have been spelling a word incorrectly.  For most of my life, it discrete_vs_discreetseems I have used the word discrete inappropriately.

So you don’t make the same spelling error, here are the definitions for discreet and discrete.

In my defense, both words come from the same Latin word—discretus.

Discreet–the one with double letter e in the middle means

  • Under the radar, doing something carefully or on the down low. It can also mean cautious, reserved or modest when it relates to speech.

The other discreet means

  • to be politely private about something. If you are discreet, you know of the consequences if someone finds out what you are doing or saying.

Discrete remains closer to its roots, meaning individual, detached, separated:

Remember that the “ee’s” in discreet hide together in the middle of the word, but the “t” in discrete separates them.

I’m glad they sound the same so people were not aware of my faux pas.

Name that name

last names that are occupations

An aptronym (also: aptonym) or charactonym is a name aptly suited to its owner.

For example, I bet you know someone named Baker, Brewer or Shoemaker. Guess where these names came from.

Some last names that are descriptive of jobs past of present are much more obscure.  I will write more on this late

A foul fowl?

foul_vs_fowlEnglish words can be confusing.  Maybe sound the same but have different spellings. These words are called homophones.

One of the people on my writers’ critique group shared a homophone story regarding her eight-year-old daughter.

Here is what the mom said about the incident with her young daughter:

She played her recorder for talent show tryouts today. I asked her how it went, and she said she had some foul notes. I asked her if she knew what foul meant. She said she kinda did, so I told her the word actually has a few meanings. I said it could be “fowl” meaning bird. It could mean something that stank or was rotting, and it is also what you call a ball that is hit out of bounds in baseball. She thought about it, and told me that some of her notes went out of bounds. Hahahaha!

I publish lots of things that are from the internet, but I especially like this one since I know both of the people involved.

What homophones give you trouble?