English is a fast-evolving language and it pays to keep up to date with the latest new words and phrases. Word-lover and journalist Adam Jacot de Boinod does the legwork for English teachers trying to keep up.
Every year new words slip effortlessly into unofficial, informal English. Invariably, to stand the test of time and to find their way into the official dictionaries, they need to catch on. This is most likely if they incorporate brevity, wit or inventiveness rather than simply be a profanity or vulgarism.
I have gathered my favourite recent neologisms (newly coined words) that have originated often from social networks, usually from Britain and America. Many neologisms appear to be from two predominant sources: wellness and food. No doubt there is a connection.
For example, this year we have seen the emergence of the breath coach: someone who you pay to give you advice about how to breathe correctly.
There is also a funsultant: someone who advises employees on how to make the company a more fun place to work, and a vibe manager: someone whose job is to create a good atmosphere in the workplace.
These are all designed to create ambient wellness: a state of improved health deliberately created by a company’s products and processes.
As part of the mindfulness craze there’s beditate: to meditate in bed, and heartfulness: a type of meditation that involves being aware of your heart, thought to create a feeling of calm. Clean sleeping is the practice of getting enough good-quality sleep in order to improve or maintain one’s health.
Further extremes include sage smudge: to burn sage in a room in order to purify it and remove negative energy, and heli-yoga: taking a helicopter to an isolated outdoor location and doing a yoga session there.
While fitness and food have long been linked, the addition of poke: a salad made with raw fish, indicates a current interest in overall wellbeing. Less healthy perhaps are piecaken: a pie baked inside a cake, and cruffin: a kind of small cake that is shaped like a muffin but made of pastry layers like a croissant.
Love of different foods around the world has inspired a wealth of foody additions. They include knafeh: a dish, originally from the Middle East, consisting of layers of pastry and soft cheese, soaked in sugar syrup. From Japan, we have inherited a raindrop cake: a translucent dessert made from mineral water and a type of gelatin. There is also seitan: a substance made of wheat that is used in cooking instead of meat.
What health conscious times…
Adam Jacot de Boinod is the author of The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from around the World, published by Penguin Books.