The rapid advance of technology has resulted in the addition of many new and interesting words into our vocabulary that weren’t around even a few years ago. My favorites are the nouns that somehow become verbs. Here are a few examples:
E-mail: Remember, this is an abbreviation for the noun electronic mail, which went out with the Clinton administration. And it’s been a verb for a while now: Please e-mail me that picture of you at the beach.
Text: Once a noun that meant a document or book, today it’s what everybody does with cell phones. Tom texted me, but I was in a meeting and couldn’t get to my phone.
Defense: Heard mostly in sports circles, defense has somehow replaced to defend or to defend against. Do we chalk this one up to jocks abusing the English language? Example: The Saints’ explosive offense has proven tough to defense for opposing teams. Honorable mention: Audible, or what happens when the quarterback suddenly and unexpectedly changes the agreed-upon play at the line of scrimmage. Peyton Manning audibled a pass play when he saw the defensive formation.
Google: Once a word known only to mathematicians, googol is 10 the power of 100, or 10100. (Not to be confused with a googolplex, which is 10googol.) Then, the Internet search engine (and now advertising conglomerate) Google came along and blew the competition to pieces. Now Google is synonymous with Internet searching in the same way that Kleenex is synonymous with tissue. I asked my math teacher what a googol was, and she said to google it.
Resource: This is a new one to me, but White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs used it the other day when discussing the administration’s plans for Afghanistan. “I will let Secretary Rumsfeld explain … whether he thinks that the effort in Afghanistan was sufficiently resourced during his tenure as secretary of defense,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.
Unfriend: Oxford American Dictionary’s 2009 word of the year, unfriend is Facebook slang for removing someone from your list of Facebook friends. It’s the bastard child of friend, which means to befriend someone on Facebook. Bob unfriended me after I made fun of his golf game.
Torrent: No longer a wall of rushing water, the verb form of torrent means to download something from the Internet using “bit torrent” technology, usually a pirated copy of a song, movie or software. Rather than pay $24.99 for the Harry Potter DVD, I just torrented it to my laptop.
And there are more: to spam, to parent, to photoshop a picture…ad naseum. Why are these words important, you ask? Some of them may seem odd now, but odds are, they’ll become a part of the lexicon and therefore important for anyone in the communication business to know. As the cell-phone texting, unfriending and torrenting millenial generation assumes more and more of a leadership role in business and politics, these terms will become the norm. And as the baby boomers retire, their own cultural dictionary will retire with them.