A man of words?

By Chris Cornford Feb 8, 2021

“Brain-fade is ‘the inability to think clearly’, sadly I’m all too familiar with that one”

Our wonderful English language constantly evolves so, every year, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) publishes a list of new words that have earned the right to be included. Typically, each year, up to 1,000 new words can be added. Despite my greying hair, I like to stay on the cutting edge of fashion, so I had a look to see what the young are saying these days. That is other than the stuff they say all the time that grates, such as ‘can I get,’ or ‘like’ as a preface to almost everything while telling a story or describing their currently limited social activities. We are supposed to be in lockdown after all, essential journeys only and all that. Usually, I go out of my way to listen in to other people’s chit chat. I love overhearing conversations, and it’s a great way of keeping up with our evolving language. You often discover new words in amongst the rubbish when you’re earwigging.

In 2020 the OED listed some new words we’ve probably all heard, such as Chillax, Whatevs, Awesomesauce, Cringe, Hangry, Beardo, but do you know what it means to be ghosted? To ‘ghost’ means ‘to suddenly cut off someone you know by failing to answer their text or email.’ E-waste is ‘worthless or inferior electronic text.’ Jerkweed, ‘an obnoxious person,’ while a freegan is ‘a sophisticated person who removes waste from skips and bins to recycle’. Brain-fade is ‘the inability to think clearly’; sadly I’m all too familiar with that one. ‘Hot mess’ is a spectacularly unsuccessful person. It’s a bit Janky, means ‘something unreliable or of poor quality.’ How about al-desko? ‘Food eaten at your desk while working’.

I’ve often wondered how they create the space for so many new arrivals, but as I can’t be certain, I’ve decided they could make space for the new by removing some other words, names or common phrases that are either well past their sell by date or have become irritating. Usually, words just fall out of favour and are no longer used, which set me thinking.

When the current troubles are behind us, to put the whole horrid business behind us as expeditiously as possible, we should ask the OED to remove the following words or combinations for the common good. The words banished to ‘Room 101’ are as follows, pandemic, coronavirus, Covid, lockdown, restrictions, quarantine, tiers (unless in the context of wedding cake). R-rate, overwhelming, infection, omnishambles (unless describing the floating bridge), breach, protocols, shredders, spreaders, and super-spreaders (unless describing the distribution of farmyard manure), test and trace, outbreak, national effort, picking up the pace (unless describing cars, trains, aircraft or Tottenham Hotspur’s on-field performance), variants, new variants, roadmaps, and clear roadmaps (unless relating to motor vehicles) will be off-limits. Wuhan, isolating and self-isolating, conspiracy theories (unless relating to Sherlock Holmes, Poirot, or Miss Marple), Covidiots, stay home, save lives (unless describing the RNLI or other local lifeboat services), protect our NHS, masks, mask-wearing, PPE, sanitising, social distancing, breaking point, stockpile, loo roll, sanitiser, gloves, must all go. All in this together, ramping-up, with a heavy heart, unprecedented, collective duty, soldier on, alas, working tirelessly, not what we wanted, our amazing NHS (unless you’ve survived cancer, a stroke, heart attack, road traffic accident – or unluckily all four). We will beat this, rampant (unless describing your sex life or Spurs’ performance against any other premier league team). Donald, Boris, Laura Kuenssburg, Robert Peston, Piers Morgan, Dubai and all social influencers.

I’m convinced I’m right – but what will we find to talk about?