The words of 2011

The words of 2011

There's been no let-up in creative word-coining in 2011. It's been a highly productive year, though who knows how many of the creations will gain a permanent place in the language. Although some may have been around for a while, here are a few I've noticed surfacing in the past few months.

New political and cultural headline events always bring new expressions. The leader here has to be Arab spring, which quickly generated its own word-family as events took their course, with Arab summer, Arab autumn and Arab winter. But the language also welcomed casino banking (gambling with investors' money), lounge fitness (Wii-type exercise taken in front of a screen), EV (electric vehicle), zero waster (someone who generates no waste at all), mankles (male ankles, as revealed by short trousers), and (in London, at least) Boris bikes (the bike-sharing scheme launched by mayor Boris Johnson). Not forgetting the amazing bunga-bunga (a type of erotic party associated with a certain Italian prime minister), where the etymology has yet to be established.

At times we can sense the language struggling to keep up with what's going on, coining blends as if there were no tomorrow. In 2011 we encountered clicktivism (using the Internet to take action about something), mumpreneurs (women who combine running a business with looking after their children), and celebreality (a reality TV show with celebrities). And existing word-families were extended. We already had vacations and staycations; now we have haycations (a holiday on a farm). Apps have led to in-apps (services available within applications) and 3-D films to 4-D films (3-D films combined with physical effects, such as smells). LOL (laughing out loud) has generated the noun luls (enjoyable happenings).

The Internet continues to be a major source of novelty. Alongside crowdsourcing (obtaining information from people online) we now have crowdfunding (funding a project through an online campaign) and fan-funding (getting fans to fund a project). From tweeting we now have live-tweeting (sending a tweet about something as it is happening) and speak-to-tweet (a voice-message sent out as a tweet). Social networking has given us unfollow (to stop following someone). And Facebook alone is a source of new words, such as reface (to redesign your page), frape (altering a person's profile without permission), fomo (fear-of-missing-out - anxiety generated by the feeling that other people are doing more interesting things than you are), and of course facebooking as a verb.

Among the mobile phone coinages are mobile couponing (using your mobile to get discounts), and wave and pay (waving your mobile in front of a reader to pay for goods). Alongside smartphones we now have dumbphones (mobiles that aren't smart). The world of computer games has given us griefing (deliberately annoying other players in a multi-player game).

But if I had to choose one word as my choice of neologism of the year, it would be the word we needed to describe what happens when you put your own name into a search engine and someone else with the same name comes up in the hits: it's your Googleganger.

The Story of English in 100 Words by David Crystal is published by Profile.