SINCE becoming a council reporter, a new vocabulary has entered my life. It includes phrases like “community sounding” and “facilitating” -comments that don’t mean anything at all really.
When I began attending meetings and wading through reports, I strongly suspected that many of these buzz words were a) vague on purpose or b) to make things sound more important.
One such phrase arose this month when I got my first taste of “front-loading”. Far from having something to do with a style of washing machine, the term actually means that councils must make the majority of spending cuts in the first year.
Who would have thought?
But, the incident did prompt a retrospective of the year’s newest words. Tellingly, I had to ask Facebook users for their suggestions, because we’ve become so used to these new additions we often don’t realise we’re using them at all.
Take the election for example. Until this year’s government shake-up, who would have used phrases like “Con-Lib” or Lib-Con”? Though popularity has possibly taken a nose dive, “Cleggmania” is another one that got a decent run and when Gordon Brown committed political hari kari, “bigotgate” hit the headlines and the Twitterati went wild.
While the social networking phenomena isn’t new, it’s another wordplay generator. “Tweetheart” skipped into the Collins English dictionary this year, referring to online lovebirds who have a “tweet-tooth” for each other and decide to “tweet-up” IRL (in real life).
Other amorous additions include “bromance”, typified by two men in a close, non-sexual friendship, and “fauxmance”, a relationship between two celebrities fuelled largely by media speculation, while “sexting” got a few people into trouble this year, notably TV stars Vernon Kay and Jason Manford.
On the flipside, Facebook provided more negative contributions including “defriend” which refers to culling your online buddy list. Maybe it’s a little cruel, but how many of those people do you really speak to anyway?
Leaving the world of “iPads” and “microblogging” behind, the World Cup gave us the “vuvuzela”, a noisy horn favoured by football fans. Perhaps you were lucky enough to avoid it though because you were on your “staycation”: a holiday spent closer to home and a much cheaper way to “chillax” in these dark financial times.
The year has given us some strange and wonderful portmanteaus but there is a danger that basic communication can get lost in translation.
Purists must cringe when grammatically incorrect additions like “simples” are entered into a once definitive record of the English language, never mind that it was spawned by a TV meerkat.
Marie Clair from the Plain English Campaign said: “Language is creative and naturally it reflects society. Vocabulary has evolved naturally with common usage, rather than because it was recorded in a dictionary.
“But registering these trendy words alongside well-established vocabulary possibly creates more confusion. The PEC is not intent on policing or pickling language, but we do think it is important to keep the basics intact.”
Who knows whether we’ll be blogging, texting or tweeting this time next year, but one thing is for sure, we’ll probably be doing something that hasn’t even got a name yet.