American Slanguage

by G.T.

Words, euphemisms, and phrases that are country/culture specific are, in my humble and blatantly unauthorized opinion, quite enriching to literature. Think of it in the context of trying a foreign food; reading a novel set and narrated in another locale, with the dialect of said locale, allows the reader to acquaint themselves with that locale, through language. So in some sense, slang and regionally specific vocabulary is a fine way to “spice” up character dialogue and narration, even if it leads to a lot of footnotes.

I woke up at two o’clock this morning and compiled a list of American slang that was popular throughout the last decade, and still persists in our everyday vocabulary. Because that’s what I do. I wake up in the middle of the night, and make lists.

Here are the Words of the Year, and the runners-up, selected by the Oxford American Dictionary from 2006-2010. Some are writer worthy, others have little lasting value in American culture. Pardon any informality in how I present these definitions. I’m not a lexicographer.

2006 Word of the Year:

Carbon Neutral adj. – Defined as the act of offsetting carbon dioxide emissions through the implementation of environmentally conscious, or “green”, projects and initiatives. The EPA has mandated that all carbon producing companies fund the planting and replanting of forest and wildlife preserves.

2006 Short List (Notables):

Elbow-Bump v. – Accepted alternative to the handshake, so as to prevent the spread of disease causing germs and bacteria. Since my friend Joe was recently afflicted with H1N1, we elbowbumped, so that he wouldn’t spread the sickness to me.

Dwarf Planet n. – Any celestial body that is classified as being larger than a satellite, smaller than a planet, and orbits the Sun. Social uproar resulted when Pluto* was stripped of its title as being the ninth planet in the solar system.

*Also see “Plutoed”, defined as being demoted or devalued.

Ghostriding v. – The act of exiting a moving vehicle and either dancing or striding beside the vehicle, atop the roof of the vehicle, or atop the hood of the vehicle, while it is still in motion. Ghostride the whip!

2007 Word of the Year:

Locavore n. – A person who prefers to buy locally grown, seasonal, and organic foodstuffs, avoiding preservative-rich and manufactured foods. Also spelled, localvore. There are always plenty of locavores shopping at the farmers’ market.

2007 Short List (Notables):

Cougar n. – A woman who dates and pursues men who are much younger in age than herself. There’s nothing but a bunch of cougars and seventeen-year-old guys at Nickelback concerts, which is very telling of how terrible this band really is.

Mumblecore n. – An indie film movement that consists of minimally budgeted productions, non-professional actors, and primarily improvised dialogue. “Hey, did you watch that new mumblecore movie, ‘Hannah Takes the Stairs’?” “Yeah, but I had no fucking clue what was going on. What was with the naked dude playing a trumpet in a bathtub?”

Tase v. – To use a taser. Also spelled, taze. “Don’t tase me, bro!”

2008 Word of the Year:

Hypermiling v. – To maximize one’s own gas mileage when driving. John checks the air pressure in the tires of his auto twice a day, because he thinks that by hypermiling he can save enough money for a pair of black-rimmed eyeglasses, and finally be accepted among his hipster-buddies. Too bad he drives a Hummer: he’ll never get it right.

2008 Short List (Notables):

Frugalista n. – A person who is fashionable, but keeping to a modest budget. She bought a Lewis Vuitton handbag at the flea market. Yes, I said ‘Lewis Vuitton’. But she doesn’t care, because she’s a ‘frugalista’.

Topless Meeting n. – A conference among coworkers, but under the condition that nobody is permitted to use their cell phones, laptops, or any other electronic devices. The boss said that it was to be a topless meeting this afternoon, and all of the female employees were furious. He then explained what a topless meeting was, and they still bitched about it anyway.

Carrot Mob n. – A group of individuals, usually invited via the internet, all patronize a local business at the same time, in the spirit of a flashmob of sorts. Because the café insisted on serving inexpensive, fair-trade coffee, several dozen locavores and frugalistas tweeted that they should all show up at the same time, and support the business. Damn, I used a lot of slang in that example.

2009 Word of the Year:

Unfriend v. – To excommunicate oneself from another through a social networking site, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. He unfriended his coworker on Facebook, because he was such a douchebag for posting status updates so often. Then he realized that he works with this person in real life, and realized that now he himself is a douchebag, but in real life.

2009 Short List (Notables):

Intexticated adj. – One who is texting while driving. The intexticated girl’s car was now upside-down, sinking in the mud of a roadside ditch. All she could think to herself was, “OMG, my dad is not going to like this.”

Funemployed adj. – Making the most from being out of work. Now that he was funemployed, he could spend his entire day watching day-time television, staring out of the bedroom window, and talking to himself in the bathroom mirror. “This sure beats workin’ a nine-to-five!” he said to his reflection, both smiling at one another with a can of beer.

Sexting v. – To send arousing and sexually explicit text messages. After sexting Katie a text message that alluded to sexually deviant fantasies, he regretted two things: Always double check the person that is receiving the text message, and don’t use your mother’s first name in your Contacts List.

2010 Word of the Year:

Refudiate v. – An informal meaning of “reject”. A combination of the actual words “refute” and “repudiate”. Congratulations, Sarah Palin. You’ve coined the word ‘refudiate’, which puts you in the same class as Homer Simpson’s ‘D’oh!’

2010 Short List (Notables):

Bankster n. – An individual in the banking industry deemed as a predator, for profiting at the expense of a financially struggling American public. White collar variation of “gangster’. Gangsters ghostride the whip, whereas banksters hire someone to chauffeur them around.

Vuvuzela n. – A long horn popularized in the 2010 World Cup. I tried watching the World Cup for the first time last summer, but all I heard was a loud, monotonous hum. It was still more entertaining than watching golf.

Tea Party n. – Never mind. I hope you found this post enjoyable.