Listening Post: Things that haven’t got a name yet

My ears are so happy that the election has passed into history. 2012 was a political year, and political speech brings out the worst in our poor abused tongue. Neologisms sprout like toadstools; cliches and catch phrases are pounded into the public brain with extreme prejudice and vast piles of “soft money.” This is the “air war” of campaigning, as distinct from the “ground game” of getting out the vote.

May I never hear again about game-changers, job creators, the richest of the rich, etch-a-sketch moments, doubling down, dog whistles, Obamaloney, Romnesia, or SuperPACs. Then there are the several numerical offenders, the 1%, the 99%, the 47%. And I’d be 100% happy never to hear another political ad of any stripe. No matter who “approves this message,” I don’t. Every year, unfortunately, is a political year to some degree. Bill Haenel brought to my attention “fiscal cliff,” the first catch-phrase to rise above the post-election fog, and one bound to annoy us all into 2013.

It’s not just politics that brings forward new ways to mangle meaning. Social media platforms are continually creating a need for words to describe what sci-fi rocker Paul Kantner sang about in the 70s, “We’re doin’ things that haven’t got a name yet.” First noted by the Cambridge Dictionary blog this year: “Mood tracking,” subjecting Facebook posts and tweets to “sentiment analysis”–a two-fer. “Chatterboxing” is the practice of tweeting about what you are watching on TV. And the nastiest-sounding new media newbie–“twit-rape”–hijacking someone’s twitter account to pose falsely as them.

The world of horror movies is well represented in new terms as well. There is the “zombie debtor,” a person indebted at an interest rate that can never be paid off. The runway milieu brings us “Frankenshoes,” footwear of extravagant ugliness. And who can forget “pink slime,” a meat product additive to ground beef made by–well–never mind how they make it.

One might also wonder what “mancations” are all about, what a “murdercam” does, and what is “doga,” when it’s at home. Look them up, and add your own abominable nominations in a comment below.


10 Comments on “Listening Post: Things that haven’t got a name yet”

  1. Nelly Case says:

    Was “Frankenstorm” in your list? Maybe you liked that one—in name only, of course.

  2. Michael Greer says:

    And with it ‘Superstorm”!! What will we call it if it’s even bigger next time? Will a similar storm in the Pacific get a different name?

  3. tootightmike says:

    How about a name for someone like John McCain, who is still being quoted by the media, despite having left the building years ago?

  4. Larry Vanderburgh says:

    Although it may be quaint to put it this way, three cheers to you for advocating the use of plain English! I’m not much of a writer, but I’m sure there are plenty of long-standing words that would describe all the things you mentioned. Perhaps we coin new words because our vocabularies are too impoverished to remember the oldies, or because we’re too infatuated with ourselves to think our forebears might have experienced all of these things in their time…

  5. Harry Rissetto says:

    Don’t forget: “Big Bird Lives”!!!!!

  6. It may not be new, but this was new to me after the first debate – there were a number of ALERTS – a line everybody remembers tomorrow. Like “binders of women”….

  7. Dale says:


    How could I leave out Fankenstorm? I even established the horror movie theme. Must be slipping.


  8. Dale says:


    I believe the term for John McCain is “the senior senator from Arizona.” Shows no signs of leaving the building.


  9. Martha says:

    Could we retire “Storm of the Century”? We’re only 12 years into this century and there’s already been several!

  10. Mario Verbo says:

    Is funnification new? Someone has been the subject of heavy funnification on the social network. Can’t quite remember where I heard it, but it was on early October.

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