New Words, New Ideas - New Landmarks of Our Life

Our life is very dynamic and it is reflected in our communication. Our language is highly saturated with new words in various areas, like: to winfluence (to win and influence people), telescam, phishing, blamestorming, TARP/troubled assets relief program/, flexecutive, journalese, e-literate, safe-haven law, e-ddiction, mockumentary, Mallzheimer’s, legalese, I.O.U./I owe you/, DP./Displaced persons camp/, etc.

The French statesman and writer Alexis De Tocqueville put it the best way in his “Democracy in America” : "The genius of democracies is seen not only in the great number of new words introduced, but even more in the new ideas they express. Most of the words coined or adopted for its use will bear the marks of these habits; they will chiefly serve to express the needs of industry, the passions of politics, or the details of public administration. Language will spread out endlessly in that direction…”

The new words are vital fabric of our society and will definitely be used by future generations to witness this global process of new word accumulation due to the enormous popularity of English as the main means communication in science, IT, international relations, language/translation services. Each generation communicates via its own language, diligently recorded in the books of literature and nonfiction. Either we approve or disapprove new words, they do exist, aggressively enter into our life and this process is non-stoppable. We need new words for proper and intelligible business communication. They are the landmarks, history makers and record our life as it is happening. They are eyewitnesses of our progress, explorations, failures, our own memory books for the future generations to figure out what we are doing with our lives. Some of these new words are well-coined, used in professional setting or by specific groups, others are too new and specialized or connected to a particular historic period. The future generations will judge us by the dictionaries that we use.

A Lexicographer’ s job is to record new words, arrange them in a certain system and create dictionaries. Many reputable publishers solicit lexicographic contributions and with the advent of Internet revolution have online dictionaries. “Oxford Essential Dictionary of New Words” is the best example of such lexicography, the art of compiling, editing and publishing a dictionary. The Yahoo Lexicographers group is organized by specific interests: native language, dialects, jargons, dictionary compilation, etc.

My story of is not typical: I was born and lived in the former Soviet Union, multi-ethnic federation (that region is now Ukraine). I was educated in several languages: English, Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Latin, German, etc and worked as an interpreter servicing delegations from all over the world. I have been free-lance writing since 1960s, but had to change my culture and the language from Russian to English, when I arrived legally in the U.S.A. in September 1991. My first lexicographic experience was compilation of the dictionary of the local Bulgarian dialect in Ukraine. Due to atrocities of the Communist totalitarian regime my life as a professional linguist and lexicographer has been significantly damaged. After I completed my lexicographic research, I planned to work on my Master’s Degree. I got an invitation in 1983 to be the visiting scholar of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Bulgarian Language and Literature for thirty days and work in the college libraries and research centers in Bulgaria. Unfortunately, the Soviet authorities have chosen to blacklist me and did not grant me an exit permit to pursue my lexicographic research in Bulgaria, what used to be at that time the most loyal Soviet subservient country. No visa formalities were required at that time to travel from the USSR to Bulgaria. Moreover, the Soviet authorities did not permit any anthropologic or lexicographic delegations or projects to come from Bulgaria for the purposes of researching and recording history, cultural, ethnic relations, folklore customs, traditions, lifestyle in our local Bulgarian community.

My other lexicographic experience was when as an immigration court interpreter and a Paralegal in this country. Working with multiple legal documents, specialized glossaries and law dictionaries, I noticed that some vitally important legal terms, were not included in most law dictionaries, e.g. Black’s Law Dictionary. At that time I started collecting such “missing” legal terms and offered them to their editorial office. The editors reviewed my submissions and approved some of my numerous lexicographic contributions for their upcoming ninth and tenth editions of Black’s Law Dictionary. Then I started submitting my contributions to other dictionary publishers. And the rest is a history- all the above definitely enthused me to start the work on my own comprehensive dictionary of new legal terms, phrases, expressions, abbreviations, acronyms, etc. It is a great time to be involved in this history-making word accumulation process. English became especially very popular in Eastern European and other countries after the collapse of communism. These facts set a stage for new business, social, human explorations, including linguistic, lexicographic and dictionary compilations. It is up to our generation to accomplish this noble goal.

Here are some examples of new words, landmarks of our life:

  • Displaced persons camp: people made homeless, stateless due to the Nazi atrocities (WWII), war conflicts. “Evacuee” stands for displaced person due to natural disasters, hurricane Katrina. “Refugee” is the wrong term for displaced person.

  • Telescam, illegal scam performed by telemarketing techniques, misrepresentations, frauds.

  • Blamestorming- a group discussion of responsibilities, blame and shame for faults and failure to accomplish an assignment, etc.

  • Legalese, legal language used by lawyers, law-talk

  • “ To go fishing” , or “To go on a fishing expedition” “Fishing expedition”- an attempt on the part of the police, a prosecutor, etc. to discover evidence where it may or may not be; to perform a search for facts, evidence especially by a legal or quasi-legal process, e.g., a grand jury investigation..

  • “Narcissistic Personality” - According to AMA, Narcissistic Personality disorder is a mental health disorder. People with Narcissistic Personality disorder have a sense of superiority, need for admiration, lack of empathy, exaggerated belief in their own worth, which therapists call “ grandiosity” or “megalomania”. They are sensitive to failure, criticism and if confronted by failure to fulfill their opinion of themselves, they get enraged or depressed; they believe to be superior to others and expect to be admired and suspect others envy them. They believe their needs are entitled to be met without waiting and others’ needs to be less important. Their behavior is offensive to others and they are viewed to be self-centered, arrogant, selfish.

I do not know about you, but for me lexicography is an art, science, wordcraft, a magic, a great learning experience, the way to be remembered, legacy of words, their meanings and senses. It is about meanings and senses in our life.

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