The ever changing nature of the English language


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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There are those who like to believe they have a strong command of the English language.

This ‘esteemed’ group will lead you to believe they only ever use words in the appropriate context and bemoan anything that resembles slang, Americanisation of the English language or anything else that’s simply improper.

Well, things ain’t what they used to be. Perhaps in his 1964-released album “The Times They are a Changin”, Bob Dylan knew something we did not.

Modern day dictionaries are updated annually and they not only introduce new words, but tend to choose popular words of the year.

Macquarie Dictionary, for example, recently announced SINGLE-USE as the People’s Choice Word of the Year 2018.

According to a statement, hundreds of votes were cast on Macquarie Dictionary Online to determine the People’s Choice Word of the Year for 2018.

The winner, Single-use, is an adjective intended for disposal after only one use: single-use plastic bag; single-use cup.

“The votes this year were incredibly close, much closer than in previous years, with single-use winning by only a handful of votes ahead of Me Too,” according to a statement by the committee.

“Both of these terms were clearly needed and have been a significant part of our discourse over the past year, which is reflected in the public vote.

“Single-use stands out as a much needed coinage, which refers to the environmental impacts of an increasingly consumer-driven society. The increasing public awareness of these impacts, and interest in countering them through everyday actions, makes this a well-deserved People's Choice winner.”

It’s the Honourable Mentions that may raise a few eyebrows:

Hygge (/?hjug?/ (say 'hyoohguh)
noun 1. the practice of creating an environment of cosiness, which, in turn, fosters feelings of contentment and wellbeing.
2. the feeling of contentment resulting from this practice. [Danish, from Old Norse]

Me Too (winner of Committee’s Choice)
adjective 1. of or relating to the Me Too movement: Me Too posts on social media.
2. of or relating to an accusation of sexual harassment or sexual assault, especially as having occurred at some time in the past and which has since remained undisclosed.
verb (t) 3. to accuse (someone) of having committed sexual harassment or sexual assault, especially in the past: to be Me Tooed.

vertical farming
noun 1. the practice of farming food in vertically inclined layers or stacked structures, such as indoors or along the sides of buildings, designed to reduce the water and space demands of traditional agriculture.
–vertical farm, noun –vertical farmer, noun

In these columns we recently introduced you to hangry, now an accepted word for being hungry and the hungrier you get, the more upset, irritable and angry you become. And we offered a solution to avoid being hangry: eat eggs.

Now, we’ll leave you with a word that is so relevant, Cambridge Dictionary has declared it their Word of the Year for 2018 after a global people’s choice poll.

The word is Nomophobia, a noun, which describes the sense of fear or worry that arises when someone is without their mobile phone or unable to use it.

Nomophobia beat out other finalist words: i) gender gap - the difference in how men and women are treated; ii) ecocide - destruction of a natural environment; and iii) no-platforming - refusing someone an opportunity to share their views of beliefs.

One final thought: According to Psychology Today, 58 per cent of men and 47 per cent of women likely suffer from Nomophobia. 


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