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Neologisms, Part 1: Fun with Words
Published
1997, September (September 22, 2008)
By Gina Caldanaro, Co-Chair of the Job Bank

Read Neologisms Part 2: The Key

In our professional lives, business and technology are the main sources for many new words. In our personal lives, blame (I mean credit) goes to popular culture for new words. New words, or "neologisms," are defined in Merriam Webster as "a new word, usage, or expression" and (and next is my preferred definition) as "a meaningless word coined by a psychotic."

For example, "beepilepsy" is a condition that "afflicts those with vibrating pagers; characterized by sudden spasms, goofy facial expressions and loss of speech." Paging technology combined with people's sense of fun and wordplay gave birth to "beepilepsy" as a new word. A more familiar example might be the word "software" (first used in 1960, source Merriam Webster). Now in the 1990s, software is a common term, but when it was first used, it was a made-up word that meant "computer programs."

See if you can figure out what the neologisms mean in this short story (yes, some of them have been around for a long time). Which new words do you think will survive and graduate into common usage?

It was a hot day and I was almost glad to be inside working with my square-headed boyfriend. I didn't have time for any facetime, so I put a do-not-disturb sign on my cube to keep the carbon community at bay. I had a tight deadline for the next release of treeware for our product. I had met yesterday with the project's high dome and he'd given me a lot of new information.Not only did I have to update the treeware, but I really needed to clean out the cobwebs on our Web site. I'd surfed the world wide wait just last week and seen our competitor's site and, boy, did they have some hot new news. I write for siliwood and it's a fast-changing industry. I hope our product doesn't get betamaxed. This puts me under a lot of stress. I've been seeing a therapist so I don't go postal.

I was on a roll. Suddenly the power flickered and died. Everyone prairie-dogged to see what was going on. Our power was down like the Titanic. Fred, the guy in the next cube, moaned, "Man, I just lost everything I've been working on all morning. What a salmon day." (I refrained from reminding him he should save often.) I heard him try some percussive maintenance. He and I both knew it wouldn't bring his data back, but it probably felt good to hit something. He asked me if I wanted to go to lunch. The power loss had totally blown my buffer (and my square-headed boyfriend's) so I said, "Sure, but I need to stop and get some yuppie food coupons first." Fred and I left cubeville and the comfort of Cyberspace to interface F2F in the scary world of meatspace and to bravely search for a food source in the frighteningly cookie-cutter world of generica. End of article.


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