The New Word order

Tuesday 20 January 2015 —Port-O-Call: Rio de Janeiro — Saint Sebastian Day

I’m a practicing neologist. I study neologisms. I follow the development of new words, terms, and phrases across the English-speaking world. This task is especially incumbent upon me because I write for The Anchor. I certainly wouldn’t want my words and phrases to appear archaic or clichéd. 

Language is constantly evolving as we strive to name new human experiences. Words percolate from the grass roots up, but you use them improperly until there is formal decree of acceptance by Imperial Command. When a word or phrase enters into usage, its legitimacy can only be decreed by the Supreme Council of those who write dictionaries.

While pondering these matters, I accidently stumbled upon a previously unrecognized worldwide conspiracy. There’s a secret international cabal controlling our language. Yes, I know it’s difficult to believe but there are powerful dictionary editors who meet clandestinely in the dark of the night, under heavy armed guard, to approve new words. They have absolute control over all things linguistic. I call it “The New Word Order.” I must alert Jesse Ventura, that champion of conspiracy theorists.

This ancient conspiracy of the dictionary originated centuries ago with the Sumerians. It was organized in the United States in the early 18th century by New Englander Noah Webster. Webster learned 26 languages to prepare for his mission. He added such non-British words as “skunk” and “chowder” to the dictionary. (There are apparently neither skunks nor chowders in England.) Some other of his attempts at word-control met with less acceptance, however, such as his support for spelling “tongue” as “tung” and “women” as “wimmen.”

There is pushback here on Cape Cod — a sleeper cell of anti-dictionary rebels. They’re covertly attempting to change Webster’s dictionary spelling of “chowder” to “chowdah.” Evidence of their resistance movement most often surfaces on restaurant menus. Only the tourists have adopted their cause thus far. 

The rights of Webster’s “Dictionary of the American Language” were purchased by George and Charles Merriam. The brothers ran a print shop in Springfield, Mass. Ever hear of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary? Of course you have. Springfield remains the American hotbed of nefarious language control. I know it’s nefarious because I looked up the word in the Merriam- Webster dictionary. 

Here are some words the cartel of dictionary editors will now allow us to use without fear of retribution. They have added them to the dictionary for 2015. 

Selfie — using a cellphone camera to take a photograph of yourself (sometimes with others). When presidents and popes start participating in selfies, you know the word has gone mainstream. 

Crowdfunding — the solicitation of funds over the Internet. It can raise lots of money in a very short time.

Hashtag — the symbol # used to summarize the accompanying text. I used this in the title of a recent Anchor column “#300/45Y.” You know me, dear readers, I’m cutting edge.

Fracking — the injection of fluid into shale beds at high pressure to free up oil or natural gas. This one is a political hot potato.

Social networking — the creation and maintenance of relationships online.

Tweep — a person who uses the Twitter online message service to send and receive tweets. He or she must never be referred to as a “twit.”

Freegan — an activist who scavenges for free food (as in dumpsters behind stores and restaurants) as a means of reducing consumption of resources

Turducken — a boneless chicken stuffed into a boneless duck stuffed into a boneless turkey. Yummy, I’m sure, but I would have to double my cholesterol medication. 

Shockingly, the cabal of dictionary editors have added more than 150 new words to the dictionary this year. When using these newly-coined words, one is no longer required to enclose them in quotation marks. Spellcheck should no longer reject them. Unfortunately, my outdated spellcheck has never heard of “freegan.”

When adding so many new words and phrases every year, there must be a need to delete others in order to make room. Otherwise, our dictionaries would simply grow fatter and fatter until they became so heavy we could barely pick them up. I have some candidates that, in my opinion, should be tossed into the dustbin of history. 

Jumbo shrimp — If the crustacean in question is jumbo-sized, how can it simultaneously be a shrimp? I refuse to order an oxymoron as an appetizer. 

Polar vortex — Whether or not it descends from Canada, isn’t it just a winter storm, or, as we say on Cape Cod, a nor’easter?

Foodie — Why not just say “gourmand?” If you can’t spell it, look it up in the dictionary. 

Skill set — A skill is a skill. If you have more than one, you have skills. What it the purposes of a matching set?

Takeaway — The main point of a presentation, that which you bring home with you. When I hear “takeaway,” I think of sending out for lunch.

Enhanced interrogation — sounds like torture to me.

Beware! It’s a conspiracy, I tell you, this New Word Order.

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth. Contact him at frxmas@aol.com.

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