Learning the lingo

07 July 2019 | Columns

Gerine Hoff



Working in the written word industry, I was thrilled to see that Merriam-Webster has added more than 600 new words to their dictionary this year, although it is down on last year's thousand. However, while I'm excited to see that our language continues to develop and grow, some of these additions are a little odd.

Tech lingo, insults, compliments – there is a new word for many of them. Let's start with tech jargon.

Although first used in 1994, “qubit” is a combo of the words quantum and bit, as in digital info. Use when discussing the “unit of information in a computational model based on the unstable qualities of quantum mechanics”. Like we use that in our daily discussions!

We've all heard of “screen time”, but now it's also part of the dictionary, usually referring to binge-watching your favourite TV show, getting in some gaming hours, or reading an article on the Internet. On the other end of the spectrum is “unplugging”, which in the smartphone era refers to detaching from digital life and putting away your phone or connection to the world out there.

When it comes to snappy terms, there are lots of new entries. Like “buzzy”, which refers to the generated, cultural attention and interest in a movie, TV show, book, or really anything with mass market appeal before it hits the public. Then there's “swole”. If you work out, you probably look swole. While derived from swelling or swollen, it's a positive adjective used to describe top-notch or particularly aesthetic musculature.

If you're a hit on every stage, you're EGOT – the acronym using the first letters of the awards Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony, which is what you get when you “peak” – referring to be at or beyond the totality of whatever is being described. Think Beyonce and Lady Gaga display peak diva daily, but you can also be peak gaming or peak “stanning” – the term for an obsessive and over-the-top groupie. Way back in 2000, Eminem had a song about an extremely devoted fan, “Stan.” And so the term was born.

Speaking of the entertainment world, you may have heard of “bottle episode”. This term refers to an episode of television that is confined to one, single setting and is known for its innovative use of suspense and style.

Merriam-Webster has also gone a little green, adding “bioabsorbable” which refers to innovative surgical techniques like sutures, stents, and various other devices that are far less invasive than metal pieces or previously-used methods. Then there's “go-cup” – beverages that are consumed on the go in your own cup, and “geosim” – from the science of smell, this word names a chemical element in the recognisable odour of recent rainfall called petrichor.

Business terms have also been added, including “gig economy” that involves the use of temporary or freelance workers to perform jobs typically in the service sector, and the more scary “vulture capitalism”, in which aggressive methods are used to buy a distressed business with the intention of selling it at a profit.

And then the best for last.

When it comes to insults, “snowflake” is the way to go these days. Because except for describing a weather phenomenon, it is also slang for someone treated as precious and special or one who thinks they should be treated as such.

Go forth and have fun with these new additions!