Two friends recently brought to my attention that the Washington Post just published the results of their annual neologism contest. This was news to me because I: 1) never read the Washington Post and 2) had never heard the term “neologism.” I have since learned that it is a newly coined word or expression—think “staycation,” “metrosexual,” or “meme.”
Said friends felt that coining neologisms was right in my wheelhouse, and thought it would be a great topic for a blog post. I agreed, while silently muttering something about having to figure out what it means first. To get started, I tried to think of some recent examples. One I just learned is “swipe right.” I’m guessing that most single millenials are more familiar with this term than a baby boomer like myself who is happily married and slightly north of 50. “Swipe right” means you are okay with something, you accept or approve of it. The dating app Tinder apparently shows you pictures of potential mates. If you are interested, you swipe with your finger to the right. If you are not interested, you “swipe left.” The two terms have now made the jump into pop culture and can be applied to any number of situations.
Even if I am successful in thinking up some neologisms of my own, it would be hard to match the success of one of my favorite bloggers, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, AKA the Yarn Harlot. Back in 2007, this travel warrior spotted actor Greg Kinnear in the Toronto airport. She didn’t feel comfortable approaching him for a picture, so, instead, attempted to take his photo unobtrusively. You can see her less-than-successful results in I was Kinnearing. The upshot was that she simultaneously coined the verb “kinnear,” defined as trying to stealthily take a photo of a celebrity. While her original photos left something to be desired, the verb “kinnear” went on to appear in the Urban Dictionary and the New York Times, with full credit to the Yarn Harlot. About a year after Pearl-McPhee’s attempt at kinnearing, here’s what happened next.
Two of my favorite examples are the verb “google,” the generic version of the word used as a synonym for “search.” I shudder to think about how many things I google in the course of a day or week. The other is the noun “YOLO,” the acronym of you only live once. Speaking of YOLO, a relatively warm, sunny fall day is beckoning me. I think creating neologisms might have to wait.