Brave new word

Dec 20, 2023 | Wordplay | 0 comments

Have you ever been hit by a word that looks like it’s perfectly good English until you realize you don’t understand it? That happened to me not so long ago when I was online, reading about the NZ Uni snow games held on the Cadrona snowfields high above Wanaka, my old hometown in New Zealand, and I came across this vivid bunch of gems:

“The results were wicked and the peeps and good times rocked harder and bigger than ever! The boardercross was in sweet shape and in the finals a wipe out lost my win and in the big air I stomped a sweet indy grab over the big table at Cadrona so I was stoked I even hit it, and then a shifty back one on the smaller table which I butt checked…but it felt mean. The pipe was super slushy but I was getting lofty on it and it was wicked to ride a pipe again!”

Peeps? Stomp a sweet indy grab? Butt checked? I can guess what the last one means (ouch) but the other terms go beyond me. Okay, it’s snow sport slang, and since I don’t belong to the in-group of crossboarders and their fans no one would expect me to understand it. It’s like the arcane jargonology philosophers use to exclude “the amateur riff-raff,” in the view of the professor of cognitive psychology, Steven Lehar.

Insider talk keeps outsiders out. But not me, or not for long if I can help it. I love brave new words to discover, and old words too, like gazundering, the opposite of gazumping, which I tottered across online while reading an old Country Life.

My passion for seeking the source of the strange makes me fond of Wordnik, the world’s biggest online English dictionary by number of words. Wordnik contains more than 1.7 million words and 130 million examples, but alas, nothing on gazundering or, funnily enough, wordnik. To be fair, it does invite you to add new words and lawd-a-mercy on us language lovers, it lets you report a typo.

Reminds me of something else of interest to word lovers. This headline: “Copy Editor’s Revenge Takes Form Of Unhyphenated Word.” Seduced by the revenge bit (if only), I clicked on the link before realizing the headline belonged to a lofty story in The Onion. If you don’t already know it, this site is super slushy wicked!

Brave new exit

On to something else wicked (this way comes*). You may have recognized the title of this post as a riff on the name of the famous book by Aldous Huxley. But you know what?  Huxley didn’t make up Brave New World. He nicked the line from Shakespeare, that’s what, along with a Fordist factory full of sundry other quotes. And what a source of wonderful words and modern phrases the Bard is. Check him out here and here and that’s enough of that. The rest is silence,** or if you must, mum’s the word.***

*The Scottish Play, Act 4, Scene 1
**Henry VI, Part 2. Act 1, Scene 2
***Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2

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