Monday, April 28, 2014


The English language expanded, according to one estimate, by about 14 words a day during 2013. Most of these new words (or new uses for existing words) were used for the first time on the Internet, which by its nature makes it much easier for linguists to find and trace new words. A new word coined in the print edition of the Podunk Times might never attract the attention of anyone outside of Podunk, but words used on the Web can spread around quickly. Even so, most of these new words may never become popular enough to ever make it into a dictionary.

The word blog, itself a relatively new word, has spawned more than 200 derivatives in recent years. Among the cleverest include bloggerati (the most elite, well-read bloggers), blogstipation (not be able to think of anything to write on one's blog) and blogrolls (lists of other blogs that can be linked to from another blog).

Many other new words have grown out of the word cyber: cyberbullying, cyberstalking, cyberterrorism and cyberchondria, for example. The latter refers to reading the symptoms of some disease on the Internet and then becoming convinced you have that disease.

Here are some other words coined on the Internet, all listed in Jeremy Butterfield's book Damp Squid:

egosurfing -- searching for mentions of your own name on the Web

doppelgoogler -- someone else with the same name found when searching for your own name

linkrot -- links that lead nowhere

data smog -- the excess of information one can find so easily on the Internet

Writing in the Christian Science Monitor last month, Chris Gaylord mentions some other new terms coined on the Internet or in other electronic communication:

catfished -- developing a romantic online relationship with someone who is lying about his or her true identity

duckface -- the purse-lips posed used by many people when taking selfies (another new word)

RT -- retweet

This must be an exciting time to be in the business of monitoring the English language.

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