Languages are living entities that can grow or get damaged, depending on how we use them. If the number of new expressions in both English and Afrikaans are anything to go by, our languages are alive and our cultures are ever-changing. Because we have replaced a penny saved is a penny earned with frugality fatigue, and a watched pot never boils with microwaiting for our food to heat up…
Sayings, slogans and idioms give us a glimpse of the cultures from which they come. Whether they appear on bumper stickers, fridge magnets, cards or clothing, or whether they are used in everyday language or literature, they give expression to our identity.
For example: Many cultures respect the wisdom of their elders. A Ntomba proverb from Africa says, “A youth that does not cultivate friendship with the elderly is like a tree without roots”. According to a Nigerian proverb, “The elders of a community are the voice of God”. The Chinese say, “To succeed, consult three old people”. Yet, a bumper sticker recently spotted in South Africa says: “Quick, catch a 16-year-old while he still knows everything”.
New words also enter our languages all the time to give expression to concepts and developments. Which of the following have you come across?
The world of work
- Vulture capitalists – business people looking to buy companies at giveaway prices, as opposed to venture capitalists.
- Management by driveby – when a manager comes whizzing through the cubicles to see if you need anything without stopping to listen to your answer (Vrydagmiddag-skoorsoekpatrollie in Afrikaans).
- No-motion – a promotion without a raise or bonus.
- Al desko – when you eat behind your desk, instead of eating al fresco, or outdoors.
- Eco-bling – ineffective green technology; equipment added on to an existing building that does little to reduce the building's use of natural resources.
- Automagically – a mix between automatically and magically, as in “the new software automagically corrupted the systems on my computer”.
The digital world
- Vapourware – a computer industry term for software that is talked about extensively but of which no-one has ever actually seen a practical or working example
- Facebrag – when you use Facebook as a platform to brag about a job, trip, purchase or anything else that nobody really needs to know but you'd like to tell everyone because you're awesome.
- Facebook Alzheimer's – when you get a friend's request from someone that you have no idea where you know them from. The worst part is you have mutual friends from work and school!
- Upper case voice – when you’re SHOUTING IN YOUR E-MAIL.
- YouTube moment – a short event where you wish you had a video camera with you. The video equivalent of a stills-camera Kodak moment.
- E-mail apnea – the unconscious and temporary suspension of regular breathing while checking and reading e-mail.
Life in general
- Kiddie coke – another name for Ritalin, a psychotropic drug prescribed to millions of children.
- Slackpacking – a form of backpacking where your rucksack gets portaged to the next overnight stop, allowing you to walk without baggage.
It’s interesting to note that new verbs seem to take only -ed to form the simple past tense: Googled, Tweeted (not Twat), upskilled and Photoshopped. Sources: www.askoxford.com, www.wordspy.com, www.doubletongued.org and www.urbandictionary.com.