Languages are constantly on the move and English is no exception! As technology, culture and politics evolve, we’re faced with the challenge of trying to find new words to describe all these changes. So, every few months, dictionaries like the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) have to add hundreds of new terms.
Are you a part of the gig economy? Do you follow POTUS or FLOTUS on Twitter? Have you been living in an echo chamber this year?
In this post we’ll introduce you to some of our favourite new English words and help you answer these questions!
You’ll also find all these words on the Oxford House ‘New English Words’ Quizlet set.
Definition: A headline on a website that encourages people to click on the link.
This is a compound noun, made up of two words – ‘click’ and ‘bait’. Bait is the food you attach to a hook when you go fishing. So, by clicking on the sensationalised headline, you’re basically a fish getting caught!
An example of this could be…
Definition: ‘Peer-to-peer’ relates to networks in which each computer can act as a server for the others, allowing shared access to files.
Without getting too technical, P2P systems work by connecting individuals without the need for any centralised control. It can also be used more generally to describe share-economy business models like Airbnb, Yugo and Drivy.
And this year we’ve heard it a lot in finance, in reference to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
To binge-watch (v.)
Definition: To watch multiple episodes of a television series in rapid succession.
This is the medical condition known as Netflix-itis! You know?…when the next episode starts loading automatically, so you have no option but to sit back and watch your fourth hour of Stranger Things!
Well, as long as you’re binge-watching in English, it’s all good practice!
Power and politics
POTUS (n.) and FLOTUS (n.)
Definition: -OTUS is the short version of the phrase ‘of the United States’.
As you probably know already POTUS is the ‘President of the United States’, who (in case you need reminding) is currently Donald Trump.
So, can you guess who FLOTUS refers to?
You got it! FLOTUS stands for the ‘First Lady of the United States’.
Definition: Relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
This was the OED’s Word of the Year for 2016. Used in phrases like ‘post-fact politics’ and ‘the post-fact era’, it seems this word is here to stay. It’s just a coincidence, of course, that this adjective is listed here after POTUS.
Echo chamber (n.)
Definition: An environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own.
When we use social media, we tend to create our own little worlds. Your friends are your friends because you share similar values. It makes sense then that you publish and share posts with similar ideas.
So, on the night of the election results, it can be quite a shock to discover that half the country has some very different ideas!
Definition: A significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people.
‘Youthquake’, OED’s word of 2017, is typically used to describe the increased engagement and participation of young people in politics. It looks and sounds a lot like ‘earthquake’, which gives a sense of destruction, disruption and change.
Gig economy (n.)
Definition: A labour market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.
‘Gig’ is a strange one. It usually refers to some kind of live performance by a musician or band. But it’s being used more and more to describe precarious, part-time jobs.
So, in fact, cycling around delivering food and a Kasabian concert are both gigs!
Definition: Relating to a person who does not identify themselves as having a fixed gender.
Another change in society – at least in some countries – has been a greater recognition of non-binary gender identity. That is, when an individual identifies as having different genders in different moments or situations.
Definition: ‘The fear of missing out’ – the anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.
That’s right, while you’ve been reading this article your friends have been climbing in the Himalayas, partying on a yacht in Ibiza or eating avocado toast in San Antoni.
It’s OK – you’ve just learnt 10 new words!