New Words – 31 January 2011

Welcome to New Words from Cambridge Dictionaries Online! Each week we will post a selection of words and phrases that have recently come into the English language. Feel free to let us know what you think of these by clicking on the thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons or leaving comments, and let us know if you’ve heard any new words or expressions recently.

abs adverb UK very informal absolutely
‘Abs’. It’s the new ‘obvs’. As in, ‘Your Christmas decorations this year are abs gorgeous.’

lappy noun informal a laptop computer
I’ll probably need a new lappy in not too long.

Mama Grizzly noun in the US, a Republican mother whose maternal instinct has galvanized her politically
Two self-proclaimed ‘Mama Grizzlies,’ supporters of Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle, discuss why more women like Angle and Sarah Palin should be elected to office.

man up! exclamationused to exhort someone to take courage and make difficult decisions
It also made suggestions on how to control long-term health care costs. You could say that they are proposing to man up the new health care law in this regard.

obvs abbreviation UK informalobviously
We’re pleased to say the main topic of conversation in the office this week (apart from ‘The X Factor’, obvs) has been curvy girls on the catwalk.

39 thoughts on “New Words – 31 January 2011

    1. neha

      yes old words should be bought back into spoken English. they have a certain ring to them which is absent in these what should i say..suited to purpose and situation words.

  1. TT

    Would it not be better if we struck to the British ways of spelling things?

    Let’s say for instance, “summarise” seems a lot better to me than “summarize”, and “Colour” a lot exquisite than “Color”. And the list goes on!

    1. Zoltán

      I think both British and American spellings must be presented in order not to mix them up. I like the American alterations in spelling, although I know that it is impossible to reform the English spelling profoundly.

    2. -ize endings are perfectly fine in British English (used by OUP, for instance). I personally prefer -ise, but the most important thing is that the style is consistent.

  2. veronica

    why do you have to shorten the words? There are people in UK you can’t understand because they use only a part of the words when they speak. Where is the English language we learned in school?

    1. Zoltán

      Shortening of words is a phenomenon in all languages. The shortened words are becoming new words, like in Orwellian newspeak. Dictionaries have to accept that fact, and make new entries accordingly. It is probably because we speak and change information very fast nowadays. I do not like that either, but let us keep in mind: a language does not get worse, it only gets different.

      1. Preeti

        yes.. quite right..
        perhapps its the need of the hightech age..
        language hasbeen always like that..
        and we have to accept changes with an open mind ..
        because change is law of life..

    2. It seems like new, ultra-short forms of communication (such as text messages and Twitter) is taking us back to the golden age of the telegram: when the speed and brevity of communication was essential. I think it’s alright in that context, as long as people know when not to use abbreviations.

      1. neha

        language is a quintessential feature of civilisation. yes i will write this with an S even if it shows wrong.
        people on facebook never stop to amaze me with their writing mannerisms. i do not comprehend or i should say it takes me more time to understand their “reduced forms” . wish people show more respect to language.

  3. Wonderful idea!
    Well, I agree with lappy and disagree with the abbreviations. Precisely, one gourgeous thing about the word “absolutely” is the sound if it, and how you say it.
    man up! … with this one I’m not really sure. On one hand I’d agree, but taking into consideration the fashion for equality in language… Although in my own language (Spanish) we use a similar expression, regardless of whom you are talking to.

  4. Harry

    I’d add a bit of connotation to “Mamma Grizzly” and “man up.” In the former, Sarah Palin meant to invoke the passion of women activists (mothers or not) for the “family values” long touted by the American right. “Grizzly” speaks to her home in Alaska, often called “the last frontier,” where “old fashioned” American values are supposedly preserved. It’s not “maternal instincts,” it’s conservative passion in colorful garb.

    “Man up” should be flagged as a right-wing insult, impugning the masculinity of any and all opponents. Ironically, it has gained more force and currency from the many victories of the gay rights movement. The obviously implication is that any politician who bows to the demands of homosexuals cannot possibly stand up to a threat to society.

  5. Zoltán

    English is a foreign language for me. When I worked on a cruise ship, certain two words were mentioned often, but I could not find them in dictionaries or thesauri, not even in slang-dictionaries, so I do not know the spelling. I am interested in the ethymology and the origin of these words. They look somehow like:
    babaloo – stupid
    chipetawny – mean
    Any ideas?
    About the “thumbs up” marks: since there are no bad words, we have to consider them only as an aesthetical, personal judgement, haven’t we?

  6. M. Woodley

    The term “man up” is, to me, extremely insulting and offensive. Why is it that anything denoting courage, fortitude, strength, etc., is described using masculine words, while weakness, cowardice, and other derogatory, less-than-flattering conditions are described using feminine terms?

  7. Harry

    A note to Zoltan:

    “Babaloo!” was the title of a rather melodramatic Cuban song popular in the 1940’s and ’50s. Its driving rhythms and over-the-top passions made it an easy target for satirists, including Desi Arnaz, the Cuban-born co-star of the first TV sitcom, “I Love Lucy.” I’ve never heard it used as a general slang term, but given the age of most cruise passengers (they all remember “I Love Lucy”), I can see how it might become a private joke within a family. In this context, saying “Babaloo!” would be a playful way of saying someone had moved beyond reason to the comically absurd.

    1. Harry

      Among the many challenges in learning English is that it is a very elastic language that, for various reasons, has been adopted people in many different parts of the world and adapted to their individual needs. Electronic media are dominated by British and American English, but there are also distinctive kinds of English spoken in India, Australia, Africa, and the West Indies. There are also distinctive regional accents in Britain, the US and even Canada. Fortunately, these mostly depend on “differences without a distinction,” meaning that if you focus on basic patterns of structure and vocabulary, minor differences in spelling and the occasional colorful idiom will not deter you from understanding the essential meaning.

  8. Vane

    I find it somewhat depressing that abbreviations of adverbs such as “obvs” and “abs” are slowly sneaking into the dictionary. I know that English speakers very frequently use contracted forms of the most used verbs, abbreviations of nouns, acronyms of proper nouns and nowadays even acronyms of whole phrases. But to start using abbreviations of adverbs is the beginning of deterioration. Soon, adjectives will follow, and then there will be no lexical category with semantic value left that will not contain a slew of abbreviations. A Tower of Babel scenario seems likely. If you don’t believe me, search Wikipedia for “abs” and see how much entries come up.

  9. Espoir Mbyi

    i like shoten in English. But i think that will be cool among friends and familly members. Because when you will meet someone from another country, who learnt English as a second language, he’ll abs not understand what you’re telling. so, Formal is better while talking with someone new.

  10. seyyed mohammad kazem hashemi

    first of all, i know need to include words of TOEFL(test of English as foreign language), for students improvement about new English concepts and structures.then, describing words such as ‘man up’ and so forth.thanks alot

  11. Mouna Tlili

    I like the idea of the blog and I appreciate it. Some words are very interesting like lappy and man up, however I don’t like abbreviations. Something that matters to me is the sound of the word. It is much nicer to pronounce the whole word. Could be useful to use abbreviations when writing short messages for example but not out of that context. I think it will not help improving the language.

    1. Harry

      I’m sorry to add to your confusion, but even native speakers sometimes fail to distinguish between “fewer” (concerning items you can count) and “less” (concerning volumes of products that cannot be easily counted). The rule I describe here still applies to precise, academic English, but the trend in the language is to erase these distinctions.

      For better or worse, you have chosen to study a very fluid language. Rest assured that last year’s fixed rule is this year’s option and next year’s archaic slang.

  12. Kim

    I came to this dictionary because I loved the elaborate definitions and collection of words. I homeschool my 14-year-old and vocabulary is one of our favorite topics so I was quite ecstatic to see a section for new words. After checking it out, I was just a little mortified. Isn’t an abbreviated word just an abbreviation – not a new one? Instead of an entire new entry, an abbreviation addition to the already existing entry should suffice. Lappy sounds like something my 3-year-old niece would say because she’s learning to speak. For instance – mommy, daddy, blanky, tubby (bathtub), lappy…and isn’t ‘man up’ actually two words – making it a phrase? I guess I’m old-fashioned. I like paper and pen and not having to ask what my conversation partner is saying every time she speaks. I d k w t h is goin on in Amer. Tech is incrsn n mors r decrsn. Is this really what our language is going to become?

    1. Hi Kim, abbreviations have been part of the English language for many years; some, such as phone, and pram (for perambulator – a baby carriage in the US) have become the standard word for these items, so they can be more than mere children’s words. We present ‘new’ abbreviations here because they have been appeared recently in newspapers or magazines or on the radio or TV or in conversation, and thought they represented interesting innovations in English. That does not mean that we think people should use them; we leave it up to you to decide whether you approve of them or not, hence the thumbs-up and thumbs-down. As for the English language, its demise has been predicted for centuries now, yet it is proving remarkably robust.

  13. Harry

    I am a bit puzzled by the most recent offerings. As a New Yorker, I can say with complete assurance that the last two postings of new words have been a total mystery to me — and, I suspect, most speakers of American English. I hope this comment re-assures posters who favor (or favour) British usage.

    I would like to know where these words (or pseudo-words) come from? What standards are being applied? Are these simply words overheard in a university town, or have they been published somewhere, broadcast, or appeared online?

    1. The words and phrases presented here have been observed recently in written or spoken English by one of our staff or a special team employed to monitor the language for such neologisms, or new words. Some of them will undoubtedly be short-lived, some will prove popular and eventually make it into our dictionaries – it is very difficult to predict which will do which, particularly because most of these words have only just started appearing. Therefore we present them here, separately from our main dictionaries, for users’ interest and (hopefully) entertainment. Source information, about where the word was read or heard, is usually included with the original context. Some will come from British English, and some from American – the source information may make this more clear.

      We make no claims that these words will still be popular in a year’s time, nor do we approve or disapprove them – we leave that up to you with the thumbs-up and thumbs-down.

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