Monthly Archives: July 2012

Games Lanes Power The Olympic Family

It was always obvious that we would use various new words and phrases as a result of the Olympics. But in the early few days, organisers must have been hoping that the words would be of a sporting nature.

Sadly not. Instead, we were introduced to the phrase Games Lanes, as parts of London became paralysed by the closing down of main arteries across the UK’s capital. And who gets to ride in the Games Lanes? Members of the Olympic Family.

The phrase Olympic Family, a kind of catch-all which seems to encompass anybody with any tangential connection to the Games, has become negative because of its association with empty seats in stadiums, with large areas dedicated to this mystical family sitting unused. It is not currently a family that people are keen to put on their Christmas list.

Now it’s all down to the competitors. Hopefully their feats will prove so stirring that when we look back over the words which defined the Games, external controversies will not be on the podium.

Another Fine Shambles For Romney

Mitt Romney is rapidly emerging as Wordability’s most unlikely hero. Who knew! He has already charmed us with his caring attitude towards his dog, and delighted us by not knowing the name of the country he is trying to lead.

Now, as he winds his gaffe-strewn way across the globe, to ensure that everyone knows exactly who he is before November’s election, he might be wishing he had stayed at home. His questioning of London’s readiness and enthusiasm for the Olympics, followed by increasingly desperate attempts to limit the damage, rapidly saw his trip labelled a Romneyshambles.

It’s wonderful to see a clever neologism like this making some headway, building as it does on Omnishambles’ re-emergence into public consciousness earlier this year. In a single word, the would-be president’s efforts are distilled, summed up and spat out, and it satisfies every opponent’s desire for a linguistic stick with which they can beat him.

Mr Romney must have thought his surname made him pun-proof. Who knew!

Derecho Set To Swamp The Jet Stream

It is odd that with the weather so prominently diabolical across the globe, no new words have emerged to sum up the meteorological misery.

Instead, we have all become experts on weather phenomena, and previously obscure terms have suddenly leapt forward to become commonplace and act like new words to many.

The most notable is Derecho,  which is a land directional hurricane with extreme winds blowing in one direction. Such a storm caused havoc in the eastern United States recently, causing the word to emerge from its hitherto weather-geek state and become widely used by a newly knowing public.

Such was the word’s impact, the Global Languge Monitor picked it as one of its top words for the first half of 2012. I’m sure all US residents will be hoping it is not similarly prominent in the remainder of the year.

On the other side of the pond, you can be sure that Jet Stream will feature in many lists as one of the defining words of 2012 for the UK. Suddenly, we’re all experts on where it is meant to be at this time of the year, and we are all praying that the damn thing will move so we can get some sun. I never thought that ‘The  Jet Stream Is Moving’ would become a headline we would hear and instantly understand.

And if it’s not the jet stream, residents in Newcastle will tell you they are experts in super cell storms, having been doused by one in the last few weeks.

Will some new wild weather terms emerge? Probably. But in the interim, we can all enjoy sounding a bit cleverer as we bandy about some words which have suddenly achieved a new lease of life in the English Language.

WTF! BFD is TNA

It’s not quite true to say that BFD is a TNA, but many have been saying it’s the new LOL.

BFD as an abbreviation meaning ‘Big F***cking Deal’ (language cleaned up because I know my mother reads this blog) is not new. But it has recently emerged into political discussion in America, thence onto Twitter and is now being touted by linguists as the next big things in abbreviations.

Of course, I’m not actually sure there is a next big thing in abbreviations. Linguistics isn’t showbiz, sadly. It would be nice to imagine that the abbreviation police are trawling the internet and that as soon as they come across this blog and TNA (Trendy New Abbreviation), the metaphorical trumpets will come out and it will start to adorn all short-form communication within minutes.

BFD T-shirtBut I digress, badly. Two years ago, US Vice President Joe Biden said that Barack Obama’s healthcare bill was not just a big deal, it was a “big f***ing deal” (hopefully my mother is still reading, you see). And with the bill recently being upheld by the Supreme Court, the Obama administration has taken to selling suitably emblazoned BFD T-shirts, (for a BFP, incidentally). The Romney campaign has criticised the behaviour as unpresidential, and the Twittersphere has gone crazy with BFD-related postings.

So the debate has been about whether BFD will become as well established as its elder statesmen, with LOL cited as as the one to beat, which begs the question of what David Cameron might believe BFD stands for. The article hyperlinked above says that the jury is still out, and quotes linguist Allan Metcalf and his scale to decide whether the word will last. The scale awards marks of 0, 1 or 2 for each of five categories:  frequency of use, unobtrusiveness, diversity of users, ability to generate related neologisms, and endurance of the concept it describes. Mr Metcalf gives BFD a paltry three points in total, suggesting it is au revoir to BFD.

I’m not so sure. I think the process of new word acceptance is beginning to change, thanks entirely to the internet. The article mentioned above says this process has not changed for a number of years, and that it takes time for a new word to bed in and get established. But with the power of global communication, and the velocity with which things become cemented on Twitter and other social media, new words and ideas now become part of the fabric of society substantially quicker. The abbreviations we now take for granted are all children of the texting age, a period that is no time at all in the entire history of human language.

It would not surprise me at all if the current popularity of BFD is a long-running thing, and it becomes just as established as all the others. And then we’ll just be saying that the debate was a BFD over nothing.

Have You Ever Made a Throne Call?

UK supermarket chain Asda has coined a neologism in an attempt to drum up interest in its range of mobile phone tariffs.

It has commissioned research into phone usage and discovered that nearly one in five men admit to making a call on their mobile while in the toilet. They have dubbed such communications Throne Calls.

It’s quite funny. But that’s about it. It’s a pretty blatant attempt at new word creation with the sole aim of garnering publicity for Asda products, rather than a move to enrich the language. I don’t think it has a long-term future as a new word. It’s hardly fulfilling a crushing chasm in the language, while few people are likely to own up to making throne calls. And the Urban Dictionary did it four years ago, but it seems to have had absolutely no usage since then, so that kind of proves the point.

And if it did catch on, who knows what might follow? All suggestions for what SMS could stand for are gratefully accepted.