Last week the Oxford English Dictionary released their latest edition to a fanfare of lolling and omg-ing at the inclusion of some acronyms. Despite having 600,000 entries, the OED still does not describe everything that happens in our lives. Luckily I’ve been doing some thinking and have come up with an extra list – for those situations which have not yet been summed up in words.
The average office is a fertile breeding ground for delicate situations which require new terms. The close confinement of large groups of human beings, combined with the presence of a HR department means that institutionalised politeness holds sway. Politeness requires nuance and nuance requires ‘nuwords’.
Tumstruck is the tense silence which follows in a meeting-room when someone’s internal stomach rumblings resemble the sound of a mating gibbon. It’s quite common in the afternoon as the digestive system struggles to deal with an excess of mayonaise, spicy breaded chicken and a Cuisine-De-France baguette. While it shouldn’t be an embarassing situation, the tension is in part due the fact that the others present may not be sure whether the sound is internal or external.
(If parties present are in a long-term relationship, no-one is tumstruck. Even if the rumblings are loud enough to resemble the sound of a chainsaw felling a rainforest giant, it will lead to nothing more than your partner raising an eyebrow and saying “Was that you or me?”)
Staying in the office, an ifwecouldjust is a grammatical construction used uniquely by a boss. It is designed to tell someone else to do something while implying that the boss will be there every step of the way even though they won’t. For example “Ifwecouldjust finish that by Monday that would be great” translates as “I’m just going on that client golfing trip now. Finish that by Monday. Have a good weekend”
Driving has changed in recent years. Many of us commute on tolled motorways and the lexicon has not necessarily caught up.
Great-barrier-grief is the tension experienced in driving towards a toll when you have an electronic tag on your windshield but an inbuilt distrust of technology. You are not convinced that the barrier will remember who you are and raise in time. You picture yourself driving through it James Bond-style. Though should this happen, there will not be a load of Communist-era border guards firing after you – just one of the employees from the toll-company on the phone to Head Office .
Conversely as you leave the toll-booth you may experience Knightriding. This is the short drive after a toll-booth where the road is 100 yards wide and has no road markings. There are no rules. You feel elated. If you do this at sunset you will almost certainly be rolling up the sleeves of your leather jacket and whispering to yourself “Knight Rider, a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist….”
Unfortunately most of us are not “Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent.” We have to maintain reasonably good relations with others on the road. Even if they are tools. There are ways to show displeasure though. If, for example, you are in the outer lane overtaking another car at a perfectly civilised speed, there may be a lunatic in some souped-up sh*t-bucket wedged firmly up your hoop, menacing you with flashing lights. That is the perfect time to delay for a few seconds before moving over – just to annoy them. The extra few seconds is called a frustwait.
If you are especially annoyed with the Micra-driving oik you may opt to try and drive really close behind them once they have passed you out to give them a taste of their own medicine. However this is known as failgating because you are not enough of a lunatic to keep up with them and also because their seats are so low-slung they can’t see anything out of their rear-view mirrors anyway.
Dedicated followers of fashion should equip themselves with some new words also.
A cheekburn is the effect seen where a woman puts on blusher to enhance her cheekbones but applies it too high up her face so that she resembles what Bosco would look like if he’d joined Spandau Ballet.
Wedding season is hotting up and with it comes legions of male guests who hate wearing ties and loosen them within seconds of the I-now-pronounce-you. These are the refusenecks.
We are at the business end of the season in a number of sports and therefore we will witness a plethora of dull interviews and pundits. Players, terrified of leaving any hostages to fortune with their words, will answer questions with a standard nonswer: “Well obviously that’s for the gaffer to say – as I said before at the end of the day, it’s a team game, it’s about getting possession of the football and getting the three points at the end of the day. And that’s football, as I say”
Back in the studio, perma-tanned ex-pros line up to give nopinions. These are opinions which are as firmly held as a live eel in a pair of rubber chopsticks. “Bottom line Barry, what’s your prediction for this one?” “Well Gary, it could go either way but if I was a betting man I’d have a few quid on United to shade it but I wouldn’t be surprised if City shaded it also.”
Pundits will also engage in redunditry which is to say something so obvious, it adds nothing to the discussion. “Well Clive, for me, I think Arsene Wenger really wants to win this game. He will be disappointed if he loses.”
Finally, the rest of world of media is changing too. The democritisation of communication channels means that anyone can publish their opinion regardless of qualification or adherence to basic grammar. This leads to the mistaken belief that writing a 1000 words on a topic off the top of one’s head counts as journalism. It’s not – it’s colming.