Opinion Columns & Blogs

Bruce Maiman: A few new terms New Oxford should consider for ‘word of year’

What words best describe the state of affairs in the state of California? That might require a few new words.

New words are nothing new to the English language. Each year, the New Oxford American Dictionary presents its “word of the year,” usually something reflecting pop culture or news of the day, or, as my English teacher once said, “It becomes ‘officially’ English when most English-speaking people know what you mean when you say it.”

This year’s winner was “selfie,” the photo one takes of oneself, typically with one’s cellphone.

There followed, naturally, the funeral selfie – selfies taken at serious events; the presidential funeral selfie (oh, Barry!); the shelfie – portraits of books and personal items displayed on people’s shelves; even the felfie – farmers who take selfies.

This winter, Weather.com asked people to send in their selfies in the snow, or “snowfies.”

A list within a list of seemingly endless ways an increasingly self-obsessed, narcissistic society can express itself. Or maybe it represents all that is youthful and fresh.

Other words and terms on the Oxford shortlist included binge-watching, bitcoin and “twerk,” the blended word combining “twist,” “jerk” and Miley Cyrus’ derrière. Other portmanteaus in 2013 included “cronut” (and its many derivatives), “Thanksgivukkah” and the return of “affluenza,” a 1980s creation given new life this month when a 16-year-old involved in a drunken-driving joyride got just 10 years’ probation for killing four people and injuring nine others because he suffered from being so privileged by his rich parents that he wasn’t capable of distinguishing the consequences of bad behavior.

Sometimes our language is woefully inadequate, which might explain why we’ve incorporated the German word, “Schadenfreude,” the pleasure derived from witnessing someone else’s troubles. I’m partial to “backpfeifengesicht,” a mouthwatering German locution meaning, “a face badly in need of a fist.” With midterm elections and a gubernatorial race in 2014, we’ll see plenty of those faces, for sure.

So with all due respect, this humble scribbler would like to offer descriptors the New Oxford wordsmiths might not have considered:

“Acrimoney” (n.) Money derived from ill-gotten gains. See Ron Calderon.

“Agetory” (n.) The place in life where, after losing your job, you’re too old for your profession and too young to retire, and it’s difficult to land a new job because no one wants to hire someone over 55. Unless it’s Wal-Mart.

“Apocalapse” (n.) While America’s favorite doomsday prophet Harold Camping met his end times this year, the rest of us are still here.

“Aqualibrium” (n.) The magical point where Northern, Southern and Central Californians finally figure out the state’s water problem.

“Barack-pedaling” (v.) What the president’s been doing with his health care plan.

“Beardo” (n.) That guy from Duck Dynasty.

“Blamestorming” (n.) The act of getting together after a serious mistake to decide whose fault it was.

“Boehnerdiction” (n.) Being addicted to the infrared glow of tanning salons.

“Boondwindled” (v.) Getting sold on public works projects that eventually cost us too much.

“Compenspraytion” (n.) Money paid to former UC Davis police officer John Pike after being fired for pepper-spraying students demonstrating on campus.

“Cryperbole” (n.) Melodramatic whining over nothing important, e.g., Fox News.

“Dictatious magnanimous” (adj.) Your supermajority Legislature at work.

“Electrocity” (n.) Your PG&E bill.

“Fauxcession” (n.) The dystopian fantasy of threatening to form your own state that masquerades as a semi-serious political issue.

“Gagriculture” (n.) Reaction to lawmakers such as Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, stripping food stamps out of the farm bill but not farm subsidies to people like himself.

“Hunger games” (n.) The moment where everyone in your house watching the game is eyeballing that last slice of pizza.

“Instant grassification” (n.) What people wanting to legalize marijuana are seeking.

“Intaxicated” (adj.) State of Californians who drank the Kool-Aid that we have a budget surplus while the state is facing a pension liability in the trillions. See also, “fudge.”

“Kingxiety” (n.) The mental twitchery endured by people with an opinion about who should pay for a downtown arena.

“Leakquencies” (n.) The muffled music you can hear coming out of someone else’s headphones.

“Nogotiation” (n.) The process of refusing to negotiate pension liabilities. See also “permanent state of the U.S. Congress.”

“Obliviot” (n.) A driver too busy checking a cellphone to watch the road.

“Palindrone” (n.) Any time Sarah Palin opens her mouth.

“Reintarnation” (n.) Coming back to life as a cast member in “Duck Dynasty.” Do you suppose they get their insurance through Aflac?

“Sudafed” (n.) Civil action against the government for spying on you.

“Uniperversity” (n.) Cocooned academic environment where administrators make obscene six-figure salaries while complaining about lack of funding for their institutions.