The English language is a truly amazing thing; dynamic, diverse, evolving, complex, sometimes unfathomable and irrational.
Very, very few people are true masters of it and those who really understand it would never think to claim that they’ve fully tamed it.
The fact that it does evolve is one of the most marvellous things about it and should be celebrated. But… It seems to have become an annual PR challenge for the compilers of dictionaries to seek out and include the most ridiculous new word candidates that they know will appeal to the mass media in ‘silly season’ (when MPs and other are on holiday and filling pages/airtime becomes that much harder). They’ve done it again today.
From a PR perspective, who are we to criticise? It’s smart and it works. Every time. It’s hard not to say, though, that they can go too far.
Take the ‘listicle’, which has this time found it’s way in, along with ‘humblebrag’, ‘clickbait’, ‘amazeballs’ even. Many people have watched the rise of the list-based article with open mouths in just the last couple of years. It’s what BuzzFeed survives on. But to journalists who have been around the block a bit it’s just one of many devices that have formed newspaper and magazine content for decades, if not centuries. Many a time would you hear a news editor shout across the newsroom: “Get me a top ten list of ways to die by [insert everyday object] to go with that piece!”
Just because it’s been given a silly name, does that make it a new ‘thing’?
The fear is that we are going to cram our dictionaries, the keepers of our words, with fly-by-night, trendy newcomers that will come and go and never stand the test of time. Really, does ‘humblebrag’ sound like a word the kids will be using in, ooh, eight months or so?