Social media are also thought to be drivers of the latest vocabulary … Donald J Trump at the Grand Opening of Trump Turnberry, his Ayrshire hotel and golf resort.
Donald Trump’s linguistic dexterity may be questionable, but the US president’s lexicon has had an impact on the English language, which is reflected in the latest additions to oxforddictionaries.com, the online reference guide to current English. New coinages that reflect the latest wave of online political activism form a significant section of more than 300 new definitions in the database, which is a sister work to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Additions including “clicktivism” (a pejorative word for armchair activists on social media), “haterade” (excessive negativity, criticism, or resentment), “otherize” (view or treat – a person or group of people – as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself) and “herd mentality” (the tendency for people’s behaviour or beliefs to conform to those of the group to which they belong) all emerged during the 2016 battle for the White House, said head of content development Angus Stevenson.
“We are getting a convergence of high-level politics and online language in quite a new way,” Stevenson said. “We had all the words around Brexit in the last update and we are now starting to see all the words around Trump coming into the dictionary.”
Stevenson said that new terms from Trump, his supporters and opponents were emerging more rapidly than in the past. “We have lots to add all the time. We don’t have ‘fake news’ or ‘alternative fact’ this time, because they have just started gaining currency, but I am sure they will be in the next update,” he added.
As well as political terms, public conversations about diet, fitness and gender were a strong influence on the words included in the latest update. “Superfruit”, a nutrient-rich fruit considered to be especially beneficial for health and wellbeing; HIIT, the acronym for high-intensity interval training; and “third gender”, a category of people who do not identify simply as male or female, all made it into the online database.
Social media were the source for many of the new coinages, though most were the kind of compounds that would have language purists clutching their pearls. “Craptacular” (remarkably poor and disappointing), “bronde” (hair dyed both blond and brunette) and “fitspiration” (a person or thing that serves as motivation for someone to sustain or improve health and fitness) all made the cut.
Stevenson said the need for brevity on Twitter was not responsible for rising numbers of compound words, but it had widened the pool of those inventing new terms. “People feel much freer to coin their own words these days,” he said, advising anyone who wished to make a permanent dent in the English language to make sure that their word sounded attractive. Citing the word “vlog”, he said ugly-sounding words tended not to gain very wide currency. He added: “They have to have a euphonious sound.”
His favourite addition? “Aquafaba”: water in which chickpeas or other pulses have been cooked, used as a substitute for egg whites, particularly in vegan cooking. “As language nerds we were quite pleased by that because it is a compound of Latin words and sounds very nice,” he explained.