Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 330
January 25, 1999

New Words for the New Century

Still fresh in my mind is the long-ago comment of a linguistically adept foreign educator who said that English was the easiest language to learn but the most difficult to master: ease revealed in its world-wide use, difficulty tangible in the sheer weight of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. English is amazingly fluid, both in abosrbing words from other languages and in creating new words. I favor the following words seeping into our public discourse.

Blamestorming. I remember well late-night college bull sessions at which faculty and food were the subject of constant complaints. Once a teacher, I now know that faculty have their own bull sessions complaining about, for example, students. But then, youth complain about parents and parents roll their eyes in talking about their children's shenanigans. Congregants laugh about the antics of ministers and ministers rehash the foibles of parishioners. Now that we live in a litigious era, this word becomes all the more useful.

Ohnosecond. What a wonderfully descriptive word for that awful sinking feeling immediately following a stupid mistake, a inappropriate remark or a missed appointment. The word describes that moment when proposing, or clinching a deal, or confessing one's faults, or finally talking seriously wth one's adolescent or spouse that something happens to break the spell. "Oh no" then flashes through my mind.

Beepilepsy. At a lecture or in a restaurant, a beeper goes off (especially in vibrator mode), followed by a brief seizure. Or, in deep and earnest conversation, the phone rings and the other's arm automatically jerks to pick it up, interrupting speech in mid-sentence. Beepilepsy is a particularly modern disease.

Irritainment. What better word for much of each of our "trials of the century:" O. J. Simpson and William Clinton (a bit myopic since the Sacco-Vanzetti [1921] or he Lindberg kidnapping [1935] trials might, among others, have better claim). These media spectacles are annoying, but compelling to watch. Irritainment is similar to rubbing the scab of a healing cut.

Blamestorming, ohnosecond, beepilepsy, and irritainment may not make it into our everyday language, but the reside in my mind with wondrous clarity, and a delightful smile.


--Robert H. Tucker
25 January 1999

© Robert H. Tucker, 1999.
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