Bring your English up-to date

Anglorama nr 2/2006 (34)

Bring your English up-to date

Co roku język angielski staje się bogatszy o kilka terminów. Niektóre z nich powstają w zadziwiających okolicznościach.

Necessity is the mother of invention – old sayings are not a pack of lies, in particular when you have a language in mind. English has always been in a state of evolution, new words have been brought to life, new terms hit the spotlight and finally entered into dictionaries. Where do new words spring from? Most of them are created either for an immediate or specific need such as scientific terms or trade marks; many are coined to denote new phenomena or old ideas which have taken on a new cultural context. In the wake of changes, especially in technology, the lexicon expands almost everyday.

One of the most prolific “mothers” which gave birth to a large number of new terms is the Internet. With the advent of blogs you can express freely your thoughts and feelings and make them public. However, think twice before you post any negative remarks about your boss or workplace or you can get dooced like Heather Armstrong, a Los Angeles web designer who was fired after writing
a few apparently offensive remarks about her workmates in her personal blog dooce. com. This unfortunate incident gave rise to the word which is usually used in passive constructions e.g. “He got dooced”. The noun deriving from dooced is doocing. Hence, the Web is not a perfectly safe place for venting frustration.

It is safe, however, for those keen on fanfic (shortened version of fan fiction) - new stories using characters and settings from well-known series of books or films written by their fans, not by the original authors. The popularity of Harry Potter contributed to the development of this genre. Fans started to write new adventures featuring Harry and his friends to fill the time gap before the release of the next authentic Potter novel. Fanfic is flourishing on the net and fanficers or fanfickers (as writers of the genre are lightheartedly called) satisfy needs of other fans desperate for fresh adventures from the gang at Hogwarts.

Technology has, however, some traps you can easily fall into. If you feel an irresistible urge to open your e-mail box soon after waking up it can be the first symptom of infomania – a persistent urge to respond to electronic methods of communication such as e-mails or text messages. It results in reduced concentration or it can even lead to a drop in intelligence. Another syndrome computer users may fall victims to is fat finger syndrome. No, you don’t have to go on a diet! But the consequences of pressing a wrong button accidentally when you enter data may turn out to be dire.

Access to the Internet facilities enables you to go homeshoring. It means you needn’t leave home to earn a living. Your workplace is home-based. The transfer of service industry employment from highcost offices to workers at home is more and more popular. While cutting costs the practice can boost productivity and, of course, it is very convenient for employees.

Rich though it be, the Internet is not the only source which throws up new words. The consumer society also produces lexical offspring. Have you ever done deshopping? If you bought a dress with the intention of wearing it for a Saturday party and later returning it to the shop for a full refund, a deshopper is the right term to describe you. The practice has caught on in Britain, especially in the purchase of CDs and DVDs which are copied and returned usually on the claim they did not work properly.

Well, development and progress may not be the only sources of innovation. Bizarre incidents like the one with Justin Timberlake also enrich the language. After pulling off part of Janet Jackson’s costume during The Super Bowl, he revealed part of her right breast (unintentionally as he later admitted). Afterwards, he apologized for the wardrobe malfunction, thus coining a new expression meaning “the accidental exposure of an intimate part of the body because of a problem with an article of clothing”. It caught on in USA swiftly thanks to the humorous effect achieved by combining a formal, quasi-technical term with such a comical incident.

To close, do you need an excuse for celebration? If your birthday is a far perspective, why don’t you throw a half-birthday party? It falls on the day which is exactly six months before the actual day you were born. So Happy half-birthday! Many happy returns for all the newborns which enriched English in 2005!

Agnieszka Dudek

pack of lies – stek kłamstw
to hit the spotlight – stawać się obiektem zainteresowania
to take on – przybierać
prolific – płodny
to vent – wyładować
to flourish – prosperować rozkwitać
lightheartedly – beztrosko
to boost – polepszyć, zwiększyć
refund – zwrot, refundacja
to reveal – odsłaniać

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