Words are getting shorter


It is a world where the most intimate feelings and desires can be portrayed with a single image of a smiley face.

And it seems the fleeting nature of social media and texting are having an impact on the English language as the words we most frequently use are getting shorter.

Helen Newstead, the head of language content at Collins, the dictionary publisher, said its 2016 “words of the year” list had been influenced by younger generations and not only included words such as “Brexit” – a blend of “British exit” – but also short phrases from social media and a four-letter acronym “Jomo“.

“Jomo” stands for the “joy of missing out” and is used when one decides to pass up a party invitation without any fear of missing the event.

It is thought to be the first time an acronym has been included on the Collins list.

It joins “throw shade“, a verb which describes when someone publicly shows contempt, and “mic drop”, the act of pretending to drop a microphone after speaking.

The latter, which experts said was used about 14 times more than last year, has been popular on Twitter and Facebook, with celebrities including Prince Harry and Barack Obama miming the gesture in viral videos.

Other popular terms identified by Collins include: “dude food”, junk food considered particularly appealing to men; “sharenting”, the habitual use of social media to share images or news about children; and “uberization”, a business model where services are offered directly to a customer, for example via a mobile phone.

The list also carries on last year’s theme of people striving to focus on well-being. The use of “hygge”, the concept of creating a cosy and convivial atmosphere, has almost doubled since last year, experts said.

The final words are “snowflake generation”, which points towards young adults who are less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations, and “Trumpism”, the policies advocated by Donald Trump.

Newstead put the changing nature of language down to social media, where space is often restricted and messages are sent in haste.

An analysis of the previous “words of the year” lists by The Daily Telegraph shows the average length of a one-word term has decreased from 9.3 letters per word to 7.3 in the past four years. – The Daily Telegraph


Leave a Reply