Periodically—okay, almost every day—I come across a discussion in one online forum or another in which a participant fulminates about the latest abomination some miscreant is trying to add to the English language and how they can’t do that because that just “isn’t a word.”
Invariably, someone with a cooler head (not necessarily me) points out that if English couldn’t accommodate new words, Beowulf would be a lot easier for us to read. So new words are a way of life for English-speakers. Nonetheless, not all neologisms survive. Editors, as a group, have a certain amount of influence; if a strong consensus develops among editors that a word is not a useful or entertaining addition to the language, the word tends not to appear in print very much; and without the reinforcement of print citations, it may quietly fade from use. If the consensus among editors tends to favor a new word, it is likely to persist. There is, in other words, at least some coupling between the language (what we speak) and the writing system (what we publish). And that loose coupling is, to some extent, mediated by editors.
Enough thumbsucking. What prompts this post is a discussion thread yesterday on the tech writers’ mailing list I belong to, basically a bitch session about words people hear at work but hate. I didn’t hate all the ones people offered. In fact, I rather liked a few.
- updation—Yvette Denoga reported this one from the world of geekdom. She hates it. I think it has legs.
- destinated—Keri Morgret reports this one from amateur radio (“ham radio”) jargon, and I see Urban Dictionary shows the term. “I’ve destinated” means I reached my destination. In the right context, it works.
- encashinator—Sarah Bouchier claims coinage of this synonym for ATM. No hits on Google or Urban Dictionary yet; so props to Sarah.
- incent—This comes to us from business jargon and has been around for a while. The American Heritage Usage Panel strongly discourages its use. I think it’s with us to stay, though; and I think it serves a purpose. You may disagree, of course.