Column: What’s new in neologisms

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Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

It’s time to celebrate a new year. Good riddance to 2021, which seemed like a regurgitated, tired sequel of 2020. Here’s hoping 2022 won’t be 2020, too.

We’re all ready for a new year. What better way to bid adieu to the old and usher in the new but with new words! I’m talking about neologisms.

No, a neologism isn’t a word uttered by Neo in “The Matrix” movies. In fact, a neologism is a newly coined word, expression or phrase. A neologism can also be a new use of a word. For instance, “troll” falls into the category of a new usage of a word, as its new meaning has to do with intentionally being obnoxious to someone else on the internet.

It seems as though most neologisms have to do with technology. And, because most people are practically hard-wired into our digital culture, these new expressions spread instantaneously. Sometimes it feels like these new words get created and disseminated so quickly that it’s impossible to keep up.

You don’t have to be a Greek scholar to break down the word neologism. The Greek prefix “neo-” means “new,” and the Greek word “logo” means “word.” New word. The word “neologism” came from the French word “néologisme,” which was adapted into English in the early 1800s.

In the past two years alone, we were all introduced to “contactless” food delivery as well as “contactless” payment at stores. A “quarantine baby” is a baby born during 2020 or 2021.

The Oxford English Dictionary recently named “vax” as its word of the year for 2021. Obviously, this word is a new take on “vaccine” or “vaccination.” Prior to 2020, I’m pretty sure that a “vax” was like a car phone, but instead, it was a fax machine installed into a minivan.

The year 2021 brought a new definition of “jab.” It coined the expression “Fauci ouchie.” It brought new meaning to the phrase, “Let’s all go out for shots!” Yes, the rapid growth of covidedcabulary seems to bring a new word every day. I’ve had enough of pandemic puns, or, should I say “pundemic” words?

Because of the last two years, many of us have Zoom fatigue because of our offices’ WFH policies. Spreading dangerous or false news about the pandemic (as well as threats of physical harm to others) has led to folks getting deplatformed.

I’m ready for a year of innovative, clever neologisms. As Scuttle the seagull sings in the stage musical of “The Little Mermaid”: I got positoovity.


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