One of my favorite features of Reader’s Digest growing up was the page dealing with building up your vocabulary called ‘It Pays to Increase Your Word Power.’ It may still be a part of that iconic magazine. The 10-item feature is/was in the form of a multiple choice quiz that showed interesting and familiar looking words, the meaning of which, it seemed like you should know. The answers were shown on the next page and it was fun to see how you did on the thing, instantly.
I’ve read that your typical American has a vocabulary of between 20,000 and 35,000 words. There are several categories of vocabulary of course. A reading vocabulary, words you recognize and know the meaning of, but probably would never use in a sentence, would be much larger than a person’s working vocabulary. And our working vocabularies are constantly increasing and evolving due largely to the development of neologisms.
A neologism is defined by Wikipedia as the name for a newly coined or use of a term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not yet been accepted into mainstream language. And there’s a good example, right there: Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia, well along the way of being acceptable if not already entrenched in our lexicon. Here are some other neologisms that have appeared recently in our conversations
Google: To use an online search engine as the basis for looking up information on the World Wide Web.
Crowdsourcing: The activity of getting a large group of people to contribute resources to project, especially by using a website where people can make contributions.
Noob: Someone who is new to an online community or game. Short for newbie.
Staycation: A vacation at home or in the immediate local area. Very popular during the economic turndown.
Chilax: To calm down or relax, it is a slang term used when someone is starting to get uptight about something that is happening.
Brainworm: A sound or thought that burrows its way into your noodle and just won't quit. Caution: Don’t think of ‘Strangers in the Night.’
Oversharers: People who give too much information (which is often boring or embarrassing) about themselves on line or in conversation.
Digital Detox: Abstaining from electronic devices to re-engage with the physical world, typically to lower stress levels.
The Washington Post sponsors a neologism contest every year for readers to supply alternative meanings for common words, or entirely new words. Here are some of the results:
Eruditz: A philosophy professor who can’t figure out how to work the copying machine.
Skilljoy: The would-be friend who’s a bit better than you at everything.
Sparadigm: A model panhandler
Typochondriac: A paranoid proofreader.
Prob-solutely: A definite maybe.
Wattleship: A cruise for seniors.
Treadmillstone: The unused home gym that keeps staring at you.
Crapplause: A polite, but unenthusiastic, expression of approval.
Oughtacrats: People who have half a mind to solve all the world’s problems with their brilliant ideas, one of these days.
Coffee: The person upon whom one coughs.
Flabbergasted: Appalled over how much weight you have gained.
Negligent: Describes the condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
Lymph: To walk with a lisp.
Balderdash: A rapidly receding hairline.
Hopefully, your vocabulary just got a wee bit larger.