Expanding English Language
Dictionary - New Words
History of English Language
I have been noticing many new, odd words over the past few years. These are words that teenagers and millennials seem to use. On TV I heard someone say “That’s real dope,” and I wondered why the word dope was being used to say something was very good. Of course, I have heard it several times since then, but it still seems strange to me as I thought dope was only a drug. I wondered who or how new words were started.
The truth is the English language has been evolving since before the Middle Ages. Often a new word is simply created and has “little or no etymological pedigree.” An example is the word dog. The word dog appeared in the Middle Ages, when for centuries a dog had been called a hound. Over the last century some of the new words are jazz, scam, gimmick and gadget. Some words are a blend of two words, such as brunch.
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English Spoken Around the World
Actually, we have no idea whom to credit with new words. The Global Language Monitor states approximately 5,400 new words are created each year, but only about 1000 find widespread usage. They state the total number of English words as of January 1, 2019, are 1,052,010.5. I think my English vocabulary might be lacking with that number of words. A new word is created every 98 minutes.
As English has become a language of global communication around the world, I am always amazed by the number of people from other countries that speak this language quite well. As an example, in China 250 million people are learning English.
The Top Millennial Slang Words and What They Mean
Who is Creating These Words
Writers of literature and songs have often been the creators of new words. A master neologist is Shakespeare as 500 new words are found in his writing. In case you are unsure of the meaning of neologist, it means a proponent of a new doctrine. It is unknown if some of his words are ones he created or just heard somewhere. A few of his new words include: hint, swagger, lonely and critic.
John Milton created 630 new words that include fragrance, lovelorn and pandemonium.
How are New Words Created?
The most common way new words are created is by adding or changes a prefix or suffix. An example from 1822, is detonator.
Other ways words are created include:
- Back formation - a root word is created by removing the affix (sleaze from sleazy)
- Compounding - combining two know words together (daydream)
- Repurposing - changing the context of a know word (the bird crane is also a lifting machine)
- Conversion - changing the class of a word (the noun giant was used as an adjective in the 15th century)
- Eponyms - Words named after a place or person (atlas, cheddar, wellington)
- Abbreviations - Shortened words (pram for perambulator)
- Loanwords - Words borrowed from 350 other languages (Latin, French or Greek)
- Onomatopeia - A word created for the sound an item should make (plop, cuckoo)
- Reduplication - Repetition or near-repetition of a sound or word (lovey-dovey)
- Nounce words - Creating words that have no relationship to any “existing form” (few and far between)
- Error - Mispronunciations, misspellings, mishearings and mispronunciations (scramble originated from scrabble)
- Portmanteaus - An unusual compounding by removing a portion and replacing it with a whole or clipped version (paratroops, sexting or sitcom)
Teens Tell All About Slang
New Words Teens Use
Teenagers have several words and abbreviations they particularly use in texting. They like to express something good as “lit.” When they are surprised they may say they are “shook.” Something amazing might be described as “slaps” or “banger.” “Gucci” is used for something cool. Acting wild or ridiculously with no restraint is now termed as “savage”, which may be admired.
Greetings are really different. Teens may say “Ay yo” or “What’s up Fam/bruh.” Squad is plural for family of fam. Apparently bro, honey, dude, babe or sweety are words of the past. “Chill” no longer means calm or relaxed, but it now means something is cool.
Having a good time may be referred to as “dope/tight”, “lit” happening, “Get turnt” means getting drunk and “Mobbing hard” means either walking or riding with a big group of friends. As for texting abbreviations,” L8” - Late, “143” - I love you and “ASL” - Age/sex/location are just a sample.
Happy by Pharrell Williams
The long history of new words being added to the English language is fascinating. Being able to express yourself clearly, using some wisdom in your speech, is admirable, particularly if you are a writer. A good vocabulary is not too difficult if you look up new words when you see them, and try to use them when speaking or writing.
As for the millenial or teenage terms, social media has changed the life of a child or teen dramatically as compared to the past generations. This is certainly a component for the use of new short phrases and abbreviations.
If you have a teen it may be a good idea to become familiar with their words if you want to stay a step ahead. Parenting a teen is not always easy, and while they are having fun it isl wise to know about their way of communicating.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Pamela Oglesby