Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

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The Supremes

NEW words:

Words enter the language in various ways. One way seems to start with a joke, move to slang, then to casual speech, finally to formal speech, although the last step may take a long time, and may never occur.

There are a couple of words I think are in stage 2 (slang) and beginning to enter stage 3 (casual speech). The first is to call the Supreme Court justices of the United States, the 'Supremes'. I can't remember when I first ran into this, but it's been around for a couple of years. It started out as a joke, the people who used it were trying to be funny, but now it seems to be being used more generally as slang or shorthand, when the user is talking seriously about the Court, and not especially trying to be amusing. I haven't heard it on a newscast yet, but that will be the marker for when it has made the move from slangy to casual speech.

The other word is 'pr0n'. It began as a joking way of spelling 'porn', but I got spam a few weeks ago with 'pr0n' in the Subject header. It was from a spammer seriously trying to lure me to a porn site. Sheesh. The spammers have even co-opted our jokes. I don't know if 'pr0n' will ever make it as a legit English word (are there any standard English words with a digit in the middle of them?), but it's rapidly ascending up the evolutionary ladder into standard casual speech.

An old example of a joke that is now standard speech is 'gerrymander'. It comes from a 19th political cartoon making fun a congressional redistricting plan masterminded by Gov. Gerry of Massachusetts. It's now standard English. 'Sucks' was obscene as recently as the 1970's, and is now probably considered simply as slangy speech. Will it ever make it into formal speech? Will we ever hear a Secretary of the Treasury interviewed on the evening news declare, that because our balance of trade with China still sucks, he is moving vigorously to support the dollar?

A word that I thought was making the transition from profanity to slang to standard casual speech is 'bitch', and its variations (biatch, etc.), not for female dogs, but for female humans, without pejorative connotations. However, during the last couple of years it doesn't seem to be moving at all from the hax0rs and d00dz to anyone else. Its movement up the great chain of being seems to be stalled. Maybe the politics of the word are too problematic.

<td width="500" valign="top" align="left" colspan="2">
Kyoko arrives at Maison Ikkoku, announces to the startled residents that from now on, she will be the apartment manager, and introduces herself to them (left lower frame, left bubble): "音無 響子 と 申します" ("Otonashi Kyoko to moushimasu."): "[I am] called Otonashi Kyoko." She speaks using the humbling/respectful 'to moushimasu' construction because the apartment renters are her customers and the objects of her care, and because she does not know yet what total whack jobs they are.</td>
meaning: say, expound, have the honor to (humbles the speaker)
申告 == shinkoku == report
申し訳 == moushiwake == excuse
Henshall suggests taking this as a stroke piercing the radical for 'sun': 'Sun is pierced: what can one say?!'.


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