This past week was the 30th anniversary of the disaster of the space shuttle Challenger. When events like that come up, we always think about what the world was like that many years ago. The world of 1986 was dramatically different than the one we currently occupy.
Things change rapidly in our world today. I saw an ad for a T-shirt the other day that said, “When I was your age, the Internet sounded like skaweeerewerrt.” Does anybody even have dial-up service anymore to get online? I can’t imagine, but it really wasn’t that long ago that most of us were listening to that sound emerge from our modems.
Just think: the Internet actually had its beginnings in the early 1960s, so it’s older than this columnist! However, it began being used more by non-government people in the early 1990s. For anyone 25 or younger, the Internet as we think of it has been around their entire lives. And with it have come a variety of words that we use as part of everyday language and feel like they’ve been part of our vocabulary for much longer than they really have. Here we go!
• Selfie – This ability to take a picture of oneself with a phone or other electronic device has only been a word since 2013. An entire industry has grown out of it with the proliferation of selfie sticks. Luckily, my phone isn’t advanced enough to be able to take a selfie, but I always find it amusing watching teenagers do this. The faces they make resemble people taking a tour of a rendering plant.
• Hashtag – For us older folks, this is the pound sign on our telephones. However, I have no doubt that someday I’ll hear an automated voice on a phone call tell me to hit the hashtag sign after I’ve entered my account number! This is used to link and search things easier on Twitter. Again, while I technically have a Twitter account, I don’t think I’ve tweeted more than a dozen things in five years.
• Unfriend – This was the word of the year in 2009 and refers to people eliminating you from their list of friends on Facebook. I’m sure it’s also used on other social media platforms and probably by people in real life. After all, kids don’t break up with each other face-to-face anymore, or even by note, but rather by text or tweet. I suppose that’s a form of unfriending too!
• Google – Believe it or not, this has been around since 1998, but has really increased in usage in the past decade, becoming an “official” word in 2006. We use it to talk about looking up information online, even though there are plenty of you who don’t use Google as your official search engine.
• Bromance – This is a special, non-romantic relationship between two men. In doing research on it, I found that it started after a season of the reality show Big Brother, and, as Emily Stamm put it so eloquently online, a bromance is, “that flutter that filled their heart(s) when they talked about sports and stuff.”
• Muggle – While most people think this term started with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series in referring to non-magical people, it actually dates back to the 1920s in New Orleans, where people used it to refer to marijuana. Magical, indeed! The definition has increased since Harry Potter to include any group of people who don’t have the same particular skill set or knowledge as a specific group.
• Staycation – This word has been around since 2003, but found popularity when gas prices were so high. Folks couldn’t afford to drive all over the country for vacation and sure couldn’t afford airline tickets, so they started looking for ways to relax close to home. Maybe with gas prices dropping, the use of this word will decrease.
• Hater – This word allegedly started in the late 1990s in rap music, alluding to those who were jealous of someone or something else. I see this in student writing often, especially in more informal writing like our blogs. Which leads to…
• Blog – These online discussions and writings began in the late 1990s as well, but were originally called weblogs. As with so much Internet-related these days, it was inevitable that a long word like weblog would have to be shortened, right?
Surprised by any of these? Probably not if you’re my age or older. But it makes me wonder how many new words will come about in 2016 that we’ll accept as a regular part of our language within a couple years.
Word of the Week: This week’s word is dox, another relatively new word, which means to gather and publish someone’s personal information with malicious intent, as in, “The hacker doxed the unsuspecting person online and quickly shared all that info with other ruffians.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!