As the English language battles against a tide of buzzwords and jargon, Susie Dent has sprung to the rescue of the linguistically bewildered.
From machosexuals to spear-phishing, she has compiled a language report that shows how business, politics and the media are all to blame for the gobbledygook that all too swiftly becomes common parlance.
In her reference book, Fanboys and Overdogs, the linguistic expert hails the language’s vitality in the age of the internet and concludes: “We can only guess at where English is heading. For the moment though, there is plenty to marvel at.”
For Dent, an editor and translator best known as resident dictionary expert on the cult British TV show Countdown, business-speak deserves a linguistic Oscar for sheer obfuscation.
For this is the age of the rate tart – someone who switches credit cards at will in pursuit of the best interest rates – and the empty suit – a person in a position of authority but with no real power.
And anyone “downsized” from a multinational which out-sources business to India now knows what it is like to be “Bangalored”.
Jargon can swamp the language, with one investment company mocked for reminding customers: “Please ensure that all registered holders complete and sign the enclosed Form of Renunciation. Due to a temporary issue, we are currently unable to pre-populate all holders’ names and addresses.”
Words bubbling under the surface of everyday usage often catch the lexicographer’s eye.
“We can only guess at where English is heading. For the moment though, there is plenty to marvel at”
Hi-tech media spread new words as fast as they appear in an age when spear phishers try to wangle passwords out of unsuspecting internet users.
But only time will tell if the machosexual – the oafish man who cares little for his appearance – will survive along with fanboy nerds who love collecting comics and the overdog – today’s version of the perennial top dog.
Euphemism and exaggeration
Euphemism and exaggeration run riot in the inflated parlance of 21st-century English.
A disbelieving Dent heralds supermarket shelf-stackers who are known as stock replenishment executives and mail-room helpers who have become dispatch services facilitators.
Tabloids are heralded in the book for turning headline writing into an art form as English is twisted into a new shorthand.
With a nod to Mary Poppins, British newspaper The Sun summed up the defeat of Glasgow football club Celtic who hit a new low in the Scottish Cup when beaten by newcomers Inverness Caledonian Thistle, popularly known as Caley.
The Sun headline was Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious.
And Queen Elizabeth’s decision not to attend the wedding of her eldest son Charles to his long-time lover Camilla Parker Bowles offered an intriguing transatlantic contrast.
Britain‘s The Mirror tabloid headline read Royal Wedding Snub Sensation: Heir Rage.
The New York Post opted for Queen to Skip Chuck Nups.