Monday, April 15, 2024
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HomeEducation / CultureTony gets his wordsworth

Tony gets his wordsworth

By Anthony Deyal

As a youngster, when I woke, I had to look after our little goat, Meggie, who was always thirsty. That was then. In those days “woke” was the past tense of “wake” which meant “to emerge or cause to emerge from sleep”. The word “goat” referred either to an animal related to sheep that usually had horns and a beard, or someone behaving foolishly. When, like the goat, you felt the need to drink water you were “thirsty”. However, in what we call the “now”, I just had a wake-up or really, a “woke-up” call, about the way the English Language has changed in the past few years and instead of being dotish I have become increasingly goatish and worked up about it.

Wikipedia says “Woke” is a term originating in the United States that originally referred to awareness about racial prejudice and discrimination, but subsequently came to encompass other issues of social inequality regarding gender and sexual orientation. If that is not enough to shake and wake me up, the new “goat” is more like a head-butt in the gonads.

First of all, in today’s usage, “GOAT” is not a word so much as an acronym or abbreviation which, BTW, is formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word. Other examples, by the way, are FISH (First In, Still Here), IMO (In My Opinion), KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid), POTS (Postural tachycardia syndrome) and PANS (Pretty Awesome New Stuff).

I was stunned recently when, talking about cricket and the decline of the West Indies team, one of my friends referred to Brian Lara, Gary Sobers and Lawrence Rowe as “goats”. I became quite upset, “You have no respect for the greatest batsmen and cricketers we ever had,” I chided him. “Anyone who says something like this about them is a goat himself.” “You damn right,” he responded, “I am a goat too.” He then stressed, “G.O.A.T. That stands for ‘Greatest Of All Time.’ That is me they describing and that is them as I see it.”

I’m not kidding. This really stunned me and I had to ruminate on this shock for a while. Even though it got my goat and made me extremely angry about the destruction of my beloved English Language, I did not go on a rampage. I did not take up a battering ram. I went instead to look at some of the new words of 2021.

What hit me immediately was that “thirsty” is no longer limited to drinks – water or alcohol. It was not actually scotched as a word but now Merriam-Webster has given it a second meaning. To be “thirsty” also means “having a need for attention or approval.” The dictionary explains that “thirsty” is used mainly by young people on social media. I suppose on Instagram you should expect Instant Grammar as, on “The Colbert Report”, you should not be surprised by his “truthiness” which, as of this year, is another one for the 2021 Merriam-Webster road.

Trying to come to terms with so many new words, I am like the poet William Wordsworth. I wander, and wonder, lonely as a cloud without being high on daffodils or come other alkaloid. In the new 2021 roster, I found the word “adulting”. When as a little boy I tried to take part in the adult discussions of my parents, or when my mother and her female friends were talking, I was told, many times, “This is big people thing. Go outside and play.” Now, in 2021, one of the new words, from the Oxford English Dictionary no less, is “Adulting”. It means, “The action of becoming or acting like an adult.”

I was stunned by the realisation that my favourite dictionary and last bastion of Britishness has not advanced, but instead has adulterated its own native language. Fortunately, the word is not synonymous with “adultery” otherwise I would become the first to admonish them.

I was as much awed by the new words as shaken and stirred. Second, on the list is “Awe walk”. “Awe” is a feeling of respect and so an “Awe walk” is when you take a walk outside and make an effort to look at the things around you. For most men, all walks are awe walks. I remember my first time in Hamburg, Germany when my friends took me to the city’s “red-light district” called the “Reeperbahn”.

It was a busy area with thousands of tourists taking in the sights that were not just there for sore eyes. They were there for the many women on both sides of the street displaying their wares, including whips and other tools of their trade. It was more than an “Awe walk”. I could have used another new word, “Hard pass” especially in the way I reacted to the ladies of the night. Mine was indeed “a firm (or very firm) refusal or rejection of something (such as an offer).” I suppose, had I gone there after Star Wars came out, I could have described the ladies in what has recently been accepted by the Merriam-Webster as a new word, “Jedi” or “persons who show extraordinary skill or expertise in a specified field of endeavour.” In my case, I took one look at the whips, remembered my distant schooldays, and beat it.

“PPE” sounds very childish to me but it is the fifth and not the number one new word of 2021. It is another abbreviation but not for any bodily function. It means “Personal Protective Equipment” or, what in cricket we might consider “thinking outside the box.” What it amounts to, boxed in by COVID-19, is clothing people wear to protect themselves from danger, like masks, gloves face shields and goggles.

Really, COVID has caused not just some new restrictions and limitations but also new words and abbreviations. There is one with the “F” word – “WFH” or “Working From Home” which is now the norm. There is “Long hauler” or “someone who experiences one or more long-term effects following initial improvement or recovery from a series illness.” There are two others “Pod” and “Bubble” to describe people who stay within a very small group.

The ones that I like most because they apply to me are “Silver fox” which was also the nickname of former Trinidad prime-minister, Basdeo “Bas” Panday, because it describes “an attractive middle-aged man having mostly grey or white hair.” However, the reason I win in the wordplay is not just my way with words, but the fact that I make it clear to Panday “who’s the bas” by continuing to be “sapiosexual” or “a target of sexual or romantic attraction to highly intelligent people.”

*Tony Deyal was last seen insisting that he will never use the dictionary again because he looked up “obfuscate” and the definitions it gave him were confusing and misleading.

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