Fab new words are a gas

Should peo­ple of a cer­tain age avoid us­ing new phrases? Hundo P!

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - PAUL BER­TON Paul Ber­ton is edi­tor-in-chief of The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor and thes­pec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or pber­ton@thes­pec.com

The Amer­i­can Di­alect So­ci­ety re­leased its 2017 Word of the Year list last week. “Fake news” made the top spot.

It was, of course, al­ready big in 2016, then mor­phed to some­thing dif­fer­ent in 2017 thanks to the U.S. president, and will likely be big again this year — un­til some­thing else in­evitably comes along.

And while I’m also fed up with this, “al­ter­na­tive facts” was near the top, too.

And if you are cu­ri­ous, a few others:

“Milk­shake duck,” which I hadn’t heard, means some­one or thing beloved un­til we learn some­thing bad that changes our minds.

“Per­sis­ter” or “per­sis­ter­hood” is a blend, ap­par­ently, of per­sist and sis­ter­hood, to de­scribe those who per­sist in the face of sex­ism.

And I re­ally like this one, though I hadn’t heard it, ei­ther: “whomst,” which the ADS calls a “hu­mor­ous vari­ant of ‘whom’ used as a sar­cas­tic dis­play of in­tel­li­gence.”

Such ex­pres­sions come at jour­nal­ists like a “bomb cy­clone.” There’s a new one ev­ery day, and while we must keep up, it’s no won­der we’re skep­ti­cal. It’s hard to know what will stick, and what will die a quick death. Choos­ing the wrong one can make writ­ing looked dated — or even laugh­able.

Af­ter all, the grave­yard of old­fash­ioned phrases, ar­chaic words and ob­so­lete ex­pres­sions is ever ex­pand­ing.

Con­sider “that’s fab” … “what a drag” … “what a gas” … “that’ll cost you some bread” … “gimme some skin” … “far out” … “hang loose” … “lay it on me” … “outta sight” … “what’s your bag?”

Try us­ing any of those in con­ver­sa­tion to­day and see the re­ac­tion.

Once upon a time, when asked if I wanted to at­tend an event, I might say, “I’m up for that” but to­day, if you were try­ing to sound hip or im­pos­si­bly “with-it” or are just plain young, you might say, “I’m down with that.”

So, a jour­nal­ist might ask, how can two op­po­sites mean the same thing?

The English lan­guage has no real an­swer, other than it is ever more fluid.

Some (young) peo­ple say “that’s sick” but I might say “that’s fine.” How can sick and fine mean the same thing?

How can “cool” also be “hot”? How can “nice” (or “noice!”) also be “wicked”? And are “noice” and “wicked” al­ready so-yes­ter­day?

“I’m good” is now of­ten ex­pressed as “I’m bad!”

When do we be­come too old to even try to keep up? When do we sound old even when we’re try­ing to sound young? How do we know for sure that “sweet” is not al­ready “sour”?

In 2016, Meg Ryan said of Tom Hanks: “What a solid he did me, right?” Is that phrase long dead, was it al­ready dead by the time she used it, or is it still in use to­day?

If I say “Hundo P” in­stead of ‘You bet” will some­one (young) give me the side-eye?

If some­one (old) like me says “that party was bumpin,” do I sound like a wannabe to twen­tysome­things who use it daily?

Can I re­ally say “she’s rockin’ those sun­glasses” or “sav­age,” or do I sound like a pre­tender — or al­ready hope­lessly out of date?

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