(uh-rak-nuh-FO-bee-uh) MEANING: noun: An irrational fear of spiders. ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek arakhne (spider) + -phobias (fear). Earliest documented use: 1925. USAGE:
“A California university entomology graduate student grew up in Missouri and as a child was often rightfully warned about the dangers of brown recluse spiders. However, she also developed severe arachnophobia to the point where she couldn’t even look at a picture of a spider.”
MEANING: noun: A word re-interpreted as an acronym.
A blend of back + acronym. Earliest documented use: 1983.
In a backronym, an expansion is invented to treat an existing word as an acronym. For example, some believe that the word NEWS is an acronym for North, East, West, and South. In reality, the word is coined from “new” as in: What’s new? When naming something, sometimes a suitable name is chosen and then an acronym is retrofitted on top of it: USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). The clunkiness of the expansion is a quick giveaway. How about forming a backronym for ACRONYM itself: A Contrived Result Of Nomenclature Yielding Mechanism? Often, backronyms serve a useful purpose as mnemonics. For example, see Apgar score.
“The name of Maryland’s bill, by the way, was the PRIME Act, named of course for Amazon’s Prime membership program. But the nomenclature of the obsequious backronym was somehow more embarrassing: Promoting ext-Raordinary Innovation in Maryland’s Economy.”
MEANING: noun: A social welfare program in which those receiving aid are required to perform work. ETYMOLOGY:
A blend of work + welfare. Earliest documented use: 1968.
“After winning power in 2010, Mr. Orban implemented a vast workfare program in which menial tasks have been given to hundreds of thousands of jobseekers.”
MEANING: noun: A dull or slow-witted person. ETYMOLOGY:
Short for lunkhead, from lunk (a blend of lump + hunk) + head. Earliest documented use: 1867.
“Bob ... being a lunk, he stumbles into a trap.”