by guest blogger Renee James, humorist and blogger
By now you may have recovered from your initial outrage over the new words the Oxford English Dictionary authorized in its latest edition. If you missed the stories about it, read on. You may feel dismayed/bemused/horrified about any number of these new words, phrases, and initialisms that it seems are now officially part of our language. Then again, they may be NBD (no big deal) to you:
- awesomesauce: excellent
- manspreading: a man encroaching on someone’s personal space while riding public transportation
- SJW: social-justice warrior, usually said in a disparaging way about someone else
- mkay: OK, or okay, except you start with an “m” not an “o” (and I can’t really explain why)
- mic drop: making a very impressive point
- beer (or wine) o’clock: socially acceptable time to take your first drink of the day
- hangry: unhappy state of feeling both hungry and angry
- snackable: brief and easy
- cakeage: charges from a restaurant for cutting a cake the restaurant didn’t supply
- rage-quit: abandoning a game or activity in frustration.
Had enough? I’m not opposed to language evolving. It must! We are an ever-evolving species, and our words and nomenclature need to change right along with us. It’s just that so little of this latest list feels substantial.
Then again, maybe every era has its moments, when we as a society “try on” refreshed language to see how the words fit. Just for fun, I looked up a few words and phrases that made it into the OED in 1970. At the time, they may have sounded just as silly to those reading them as those on today’s list do to me: counter-culture, down-market, herstory, humongous, newbie, power trip, primal scream, up-tick, and ya-yas. Well, ya-yas is just plain sillier than all the others, and I haven’t really heard anyone use herstory un-ironically, but the fact is we’re still using many of these words and phrases 45 years later. I’m not sure the same will be happening in 2060, with people saying “awesomesauce” or “cakeage” without a second thought.
But this latest list is missing words and phrases we absolutely need for certain circumstances in our professional lives. For everyone working in an office setting, here are my submissions for workplace neologisms we should all adopt tomorrow to help us understand and navigate the needlessly aggravating world we inhabit during our favorite thing ever: a conference call.
- Beep Breech: That stretch of time that starts when the first person to join the call beeps in and ends when the last person to join the group is on the line. Sometimes it feels like the Grand Canyon of beep breeches; other times it’s barely perceptible; always, it’s an unknown. [Related: breech jumper, meaning someone who joins a call so late he or she has cleared the breech entirely.] When the beep breech is brief, that’s a good thing because it means you don’t have to speak much….
- Intervalese: The inconsequential but inevitable language we all use during the beep breech. It has very little substance and serves only to cover the span of the beep breech until everyone is on the line. Mondays and Fridays are easy; talk of the past or upcoming weekends works very well as an Intervalese topic. Wednesday conference calls give everyone a chance to congratulate each other on getting through to midweek. You’re on your own for Tuesday and Thursday Intervalese topics. The only thing slightly more tedious than speaking Intervalese for five or more minutes is when you find yourself having to…
- Recurgitate: The act of bringing up the same information—sometimes in the exact same way—for people who joined the call very late or inexplicably dropped off the line. They introduce a topic or critical point that has already been addressed—probably more than a few times already—during the call. So you “recurgitate” that same information over and over again for the benefit of beep-breech jumpers.
And here’s how you would use all of these in a conversation:
Me: “Wow—that beep breech seemed to last forever, didn’t it? It felt like we were speaking Intervalese for an hour! And honestly, if I had to recurgitate those figures one more time for one more breech jumper, I was going to hang up.”
Coworker: “I know, I know. You sound kind of hangry. Is it beer o’clock yet?”
(See what I did there?) Maybe these new words are mkay after all.
Renee A. James works at Rodale Inc. and wrote an award-winning op-ed column for The Morning Call, the Allentown, Pennsylvania, newspaper, for almost 10 years. Her essays were included in the humor anthology, 101 Damnations: A Humorists’ Tour of Personal Hells (Thomas Dunne Books, 2002), and are also found online at Jewish World Review and The Daily Caller. She invites you to Like her Facebook page, where she celebrates—and broods about—life on a regular basis, mostly as a voice in the crowd that shouts, “Really? You’re kidding me, right?” (or wants to, anyway), and she welcomes your suggestions, comments, and feedback to the mix.