Slangy, Trendy Words Are Still Words
YOLO, but biatch, lose the moobs.
What do these three words have in common? They are all enshrined in the English-speaking world’s long-reigning record of the language’s vocabulary. That’s right: The Oxford English Dictionary now includes YOLO, biatch, and moobs—and many people are not exactly squeeing about that. They think those words are at best cheeseball and at worst clifty, and they make them want to vom.
And why should that prestigious publication stoop to validating these clearly déclassé descriptors and the ones I employed in the previous sentences? Certainly, no self-respecting person would utter one of these abominations, would they? Such reactions are emphatically shared in online forums with clockwork regularity, as the OED is updated four times a year.
And the counterargument is expressed with equal vigor each quarter: The OED, like any dictionary, is not a museum that exhibits only a circumscribed lexicography acceptable to readers and writers with high standards of self-expression. As should be clear from the frequency with which the OED is expanded, it is a living document that, for better or worse, accepts virtually all comers. It is a record of what English is, not what it should be. (Or, more formally, it is descriptive, not prescriptive.)
But shouldn’t people be discouraged from using such execrable vocabulary? That is not the dictionary’s function. But aren’t many of these terms nonce words—ephemeral curiosities? Yes, many will fade away into obscurity, but not all of them will—nor should they. Our language is full of words once considered slang but now widely accepted (and used) without a second thought.
The point is that sometime, somewhere, somehow, someone will read or hear YOLO and want to look it up to see what it means, or will want to find out the etymology of moobs. You may not have any reason to check the dictionary to confirm how to spell biatch. But someone will, whether you approve of the term or not.
Not all of the new words being uploaded to the OED word-hoard are potentially objectionable (the list also includes the words chefdom, clickbait, and courtside and the open compounds “card leader” “cheek kiss,” and “cheer squad”), but just as, in championing free speech, we must accept (almost) anything someone might say, whether we like it or not, we must be open to not only slang like freemium and slacktivist but more potentially grating terms like the ones I used above. That doesn’t mean you have to like them. (But c’mon, YOLO, right?)
Here are definitions of the neologisms I used in this post:
biatch: a euphemism for bitch, used as a jocular or sincere insult
card reader: a device that reads data from memory-storage devices or from credit cards and similar objects
cheek kiss: a kiss on the cheek as opposed to one on the lips or elsewhere
cheer squad: a unit of cheerleaders or similar performers
cheeseball: a corny or silly person or thing, or a distasteful person or thing
chefdom: the state of being a chef, or the community of chefs
clickbait: online content with little intrinsic value that is presented to tempt site visits to click to multiple pages
clifty: something or someone stupid
courtside: the area adjacent to an athletic court
freemium: something offered free but with hidden costs (a portmanteau word derived from free and premium)
moobs: overdeveloped breasts on a man (a portmanteau word derived from man and boobs); also called man-boobs
squeeing: the act of making a noise expressing delight or surprise
slacktivist: a person who only superficially supports a cause (a portmanteau word derived from slack and activist)
vom: a truncation of vomit
YOLO: an acronym that stands for “You only live once,” expressed to support the decision to enjoy an experience
Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips and get a free eBook!
- Our weekly newsletter is free (one email per week, on Tuesdays)
- You will improve your English, guaranteed.
- Get our "100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid" eBook free.