a page of the dictionary seen through a lens

An Evolving Lexicon and the Meaning of Words

My Take

I think it is a very useful practice to introduce new words into the lexicon that either describe concepts that didn’t previously exist (because of changes in technology or culture) or that streamline the discussion of concepts that were hard to describe otherwise. Engineers do a lot of both kinds, but so do cultural icons. And it is not often that engineers and pop stars have something in common. Here are a few examples I heard this week.

Disguision – Used by a sports talk host to refer to a team masking its plans until the very last second so that the opposing team can’t prepare for it. Especially used in football when defenses hide blitzes and offenses use motion just before the snap to change positions. I can imagine this also being quite useful in military operations.

Day drinking – Used by a country music singer to refer to a bunch of friends hanging out during the day, lounging around, staring at the clouds, with some alcohol to lubricate the mood. It brings to mind a little bit of daydreaming but socially and with alcohol.

Launching your manifesto – Uglish (Ugandan dialect of English) phrase that describes the process of talking up a member of the opposite gender with the intention of making a good impression (or more). I am imagining Martin Luther nailing up his disagreements with the Catholic Church or Karl Marx developing his communist manifesto but with a totally different objective in mind. Uglish as a dialect is actually an example of this phenomenon because apparently the whole language is just emerging.

The problem is when these terms turn into consultant buzzwords and get thrown around as a false credentialing signal. Or they get popular in the common usage but in so many ways that they lose all relevant meaning. That happens to all of my favorite words. Paradigm shift actually meant something useful years ago. So did synergy until the AOL Time Warner merger.

Your Turn

OK, so what words or phrases would you like to see take off in 2015? Feel free to make them up yourself, just let us know what they mean. And perhaps why they might be useful.

Image credit: Bookworm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *