How many words do you hear your students say that are new to you? For me, they are usually acronyms: OMG I know, but OMGD? (Oh my god, dude). LOL I know, but LYLAS? (Love you like a sister.) Recently I’ve heard “BAE” a lot, meaning “before anyone else” and hence “baby” or “sweetheart.” Anyway, I am always aware that youthspeak is two or three hundred steps ahead of me, so I keep an ear out for what they are saying.
I also look forward to learning what new words dictionaries will include: this year Merriam Webster lists “anchor baby” and “vext” (to vent via text or text by voice) as well as “photoshopographer.” The OED says it has added roughly 500 new words already this year, including “twerk” (to move with a twitching motion), “crowdfund,” and “yarn-bombing” (covering public things like telephone poles with colorful knitted materials).
By Joanbanjo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I wonder if “on fleek”—as in being perfect or “on point” —will make it. Having “eyebrows on fleek” has evidently become popular, at least for some.
I like to engage students in discussions of new words and terms and find that they love talking about the latest slang as well as words that may or may not make it into dictionaries. So I usually have a “word of the year” contest sometime near the end of fall term: we can build our vocabularies while debating what word has been so prominent in the last year that it should win the prize. The OED chose “GIF” (as a verb) as the Oxford Dictionaries USA Word of the Year for 2012, “selfie” for 2013, and “vape” for 2014. The American Dialect Society (ADS) chose “hashtag” for its 2012 Word of the Year, “because” (introducing a noun, adjective, or adverb, as in “because Monday” or “because gorgeous”) for 2013, and “#blacklivesmatter” for 2014. ADS accepts nominations for Word of the Year all year long; nominations are ordinarily announced in early January (for the year that just ended) and voting begins, with every member of the Society casting one vote. I encourage my students to submit words of the year, along with a rationale for why they should be chosen. Then when the winner and runners up are announced, we can see how our nominees fared—and learn some new words!