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1.-n-The words of a new generation, generally articulated in ways beyond pen and paper. As in "don't jump the couch." (Formerly known as lingo.)
Published June 16, 2006
It was a stormy summer morning when the staff of DailyCandy congregated in their fifth-floor Manhattan office. Rain pounded on the windows overlooking Broadway, while editors of the pop culture e-newsletter shot around the latest new words they’d heard on city streets, in cafes and in line at the market.
Someone mentioned the word locationship. It was being used by a woman who was having trouble ending a relationship with a neighbor she’d been dating. She realized, she said, their affair was more about geography than true compatibility.
The word stuck. The editors decided to add it to Lexicon, an occasional feature on DailyCandy.com that lists new entries in the English language.
Their definition of locationship:
A relationship based solely on proximity, such as with your neighbor.
With more than a million people subscribing to the Web site — and reading Lexicon — the editors were propelling their new favorite word into the mainstream.
Language is alive. People constantly invent new words and phrases, and constantly redefine old ones. DailyCandy and other institutions track those emerging creations and dispense them to the masses. Along the way, these word trackers document the evolution of how we speak and live.
“From the very beginning we realized there were certain situations that happen to all of us,” says Dannielle Romano, editor-at-large of DailyCandy. “But they didn’t have a name.”
For the past six years, DailyCandy has been identifying words and phrases nudging themselves into everyday conversation. Sometimes, they come up with words of their own.
In May, an edition of Lexicon featured words associated with driving in Los Angeles. Carpartment describes an automobile used as a secondary home and rainxiety defines stress induced by driving in even the lightest drizzle.
Another month, the list highlighted the ever popular textual harassment, a proposition via text message, often sent by lazy or shy — or both — men to women they are interested in dating. Also included was manbiguous, a term to describe a guy who possesses both masculine and feminine traits.
“We figured doing Lexicon was the best way to put names on these situations that so many of us these days encounter,” Romano says. “When you put a moniker on these things it makes it all the more relatable.”
Dating. Driving. Decorating. (See: yulezilla, someone who goes overboard with Christmas decorations.) It’s in all these facets of modern life that new words find their place.
“Words come out of the culture they’re used in,” says John Simpson, chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary and co-author of the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang, which features 10,000 slang terms. “A hundred years from now someone may look back at a word like locationship or bootylicious and think people were having fun with words back then and the way they lived their lives.”
Simpson, who always keeps an ear out for new words, has noticed a few mentions of locationship in the media. But it’s too soon to know if the word will stick around.
Bootylicious is another story. The word was added to the online version of the dictionary in 2004, Simpson says; its first recorded use was more than 10 years earlier, when rapper Snoop Dogg used it to describe someone with weak rap lyrics. These days, bootylicious is understood to mean a woman’s curvy body — a usage popularized by pop group Destiny’s Child.
The Oxford English Dictionary now defines the word like this:
adjective orig US 1. A term of commendation of rap lyrics. 1992-. 2. Very sexually attractive. 1994-. (Blend of booty buttocks and delicious.)
Oxford editors update the Web version of the dictionary three times a year. They review hundreds of words and submissions by people around the world who send in terms they’ve seen on television or have heard elsewhere.
It usually takes about 10 years after a word’s first use for it to be added to the Oxford English Dictionary. But it only takes a day or so for a new word to be added to the increasingly popular Web site urbandictionary.com.
When the site was founded in 1999, it was designed to showcase slang used in California. Now, more than 200,000 entries have been added to the site by people across the globe. By immediately posting their own words on the site, users are documenting the evolution of language in real-time.
“The whole thing is expression,” says Aaron Peckham, urbandictionary’s founder, who recently released The Urban Dictionary: Fularious Street Slang Defined. “And I want the cost of expression to be as low as possible and as immediate as possible.”These days, pop culture is inspiring many of the postings to the site.
Case in point: Days after Tom Cruise’s exuberant appearance on Oprah, when he leaped onto a couch to celebrate his engagement to Katie Holmes, the term Jump the Couch appeared on urbandictionary.com.
“It’s used to define the moment when someone has officially went off the deep end,” Peckham says. “It was really a quick pop culture thing that had a lot of utility.”
Jump the Couch is a spin-off of Jump the Shark, which describes the specific moment when a TV show starts to decline. The latter refers to the Happy Days episode where Fonzie overcomes his fear of sharks by jumping over one on water skis.
Often language morphs from continent to continent.
For example, in China the word brokeback — derived from the Oscar-nominated movie Brokeback Mountain about a cowboy love affair — is now being used to describe an awkward couple, according to Hong Kong news reports.
“The fact that we can give names to these things is a refreshing occurrence,” says Romano, the DailyCandy editor. “It’s a reflection on the times we live in and with all the bad news we see every single day, it’s a whole lot of fun to focus energy on the silly fun charming things in life.”
Nicole Johnson can be reached at (727) 445-4162 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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