Grexit Gains Currency

The latest set of additions to Oxford Dictionaries Online has an entertaining range of buzzwords from the last couple of years, as ever from a wide variety of sources.

I think that of all the new words selected for inclusion in this update, Grexit is the one which seems to have the most sticking power. Meaning the potential withdrawal of Greece from the Eurozone, it has shown it has staying power by continually reappearing in the news as the economic problems of Greece continue to multiply.

But it shows a great deal more flexibility than that, because it has already become a term from which others are derived, it spawns its own crop of new words. Brexit, possible British withdrawal from the European Union, is one prime example and is included in this update as well. I think a new word which already has its own sub-genre of related words deserves its official recognition.

Some of my favourite recent words which I never got around to looking at in Wordability make an appearance. Manspreading, “the practice whereby a man, especially one travelling on public transport, adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats” is a particularly good term and garnered much coverage a few months back. Now it is appearing with increasing regularity in stories across the world and looks set to become fully established as a great term for an act which is somewhat anti-social and unpleasant.

I was also pleased to see fatberg gain some recognition, following a number of stories about ‘large masses of waste in sewerage systems’. The last couple of years seems to have seen an almost competitive rise in stories about increasingly horrendous fatbergs being found in different cities, and as the ghastliness of each subsequent fatberg has increased, so has the word become fixed in people’s minds.

The entry which surprised me the most is MacGyver, a verb meaning “to make or repair (an object) in an improvised or inventive way, making use of whatever items are at hand.” It doesn’t surprise me that the word is used. What surprises me is that it has been included now. Derived from the television show of the 1980s, where lead character MacGyver used all manner of household objects to get himself out of tricky situations, it seems an odd time to finally give recognition to a term which has been around for quite some time. Perhaps it has been enjoying a revival on daytime TV, with a consequent growth in usage.

But that’s just a quibble. Any list which celebrates the fact that awesomesauce, cakeage and beer o’clock are now legitimate members of the English language is all right by me.

Meat By Another Name

The unveiling of the world’s first stem-cell burger has divided opinion between those who think it is the answer to the world’s food problems and those who believe it is the start of a slippery slope to culinary catastrophe. But there is one thing I think we can all agree on – what on earth should we call it?

The creation, cooking and eating of the burger, which cost more than £200,000, has been reported under various names. Let’s be honest though, the official terms such as ‘in-vitro meat’, ‘cultured meat’, they don’t really trip off the tongue. Equally, I’m sure the scientists behind this venture don’t want it entering the vernacular as a Frankenburger, a Test Tube Burger or a Stem Cell Burger, all pejorative terms of varying degrees.

The myriad of epithets is fascinating. Here is a brand new concept, and something which could quite easily become a staple part of our diet and lives in years to come. So what we end up calling it will be quite important.

I suspect that if this does actually take off, a brand new word which we haven’t yet thought of  will emerge. There are all sorts of good reasons why something which references meat may not the word that is ultimately used. It will need to be a word that shows that this is something else, derived from meat but in many ways different. Quorn has succeeded well with this, establishing itself as a food group in its own right away from its fungal ancestry.

Equally, any word suggesting it is some kind of alternative meat is bound to divide opinion, as however it is slated could be grist to one side or another. And ‘meat substitute’ as a name just won’t wash, and will simply bring Basil Fawlty’s infamous veal substitute to mind.

So I think this is a story to watch with interest, because if this is a concept that is truly something for the future, then the linguistic ramifications will be enormous.