Rating those ‘new’ words: ‘Hundo P’ on ‘milkshake duck’

The American Dialect Society released its 2017 Word of the Year list last week. "Fake news" made the top spot.

It was, of course, already big in 2016, then morphed to something different in 2017 thanks to the U.S. president, and will likely be big again this year — until something else inevitably comes along.

And while I'm also fed up with this, "alternative facts" was near the top, too.

And if you are curious, a few others:

•"Milkshake duck," which I hadn't heard, means someone or thing beloved until we learn something bad that changes our minds.

• "Persister" or "persisterhood" is a blend, apparently, of persist and sisterhood, to describe those who persist in the face of sexism.

•And I really like this one, though I hadn't heard it, either: "whomst," which the ADS calls a "humorous variant of 'whom' used as a sarcastic display of intelligence."

Such expressions come at journalists like a "bomb cyclone." There's a new one every day, and while we must keep up, it's no wonder we're skeptical. It's hard to know what will stick, and what will die a quick death. Choosing the wrong one can make writing looked dated — or even laughable.

After all, the graveyard of old-fashioned phrases, archaic words and obsolete expressions is ever expanding.

Consider "that's fab" … "what a drag" … "what a gas" … "that'll cost you some bread" … "gimme some skin" … "far out" … "hang loose" … "lay it on me" … "outta sight" … "what's your bag?"

Try using any of those in conversation today and see the reaction.

Once upon a time, when asked if I wanted to attend an event, I might say, "I'm up for that" but today, if you were trying to sound hip or impossibly "with-it" or are just plain young, you might say, "I'm down with that."

So, a journalist might ask, how can two opposites mean the same thing?

The English language has no real answer, other than it is ever more fluid.

Some (young) people say "that's sick" but I might say "that's fine." How can sick and fine mean the same thing?

How can "cool" also be "hot"? How can "nice" (or "noice!") also be "wicked"? And are "noice" and "wicked" already so-yesterday?

"I'm good" is now often expressed as "I'm bad!"

When do we become too old to even try to keep up? When do we sound old even when we're trying to sound young? How do we know for sure that "sweet" is not already "sour"?

In 2016, Meg Ryan said of Tom Hanks: "What a solid he did me, right?" Is that phrase long dead, was it already dead by the time she used it, or is it still in use today?

If I say "Hundo P" instead of 'You bet" will someone (young) give me the side-eye?

If someone (old) like me says "that party was bumpin," do I sound like a wannabe to twentysomethings who use it daily?

Can I really say "she's rockin' those sunglasses" or "savage," or do I sound like a pretender — or already hopelessly out of date?

Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of The Hamilton Spectator and thespec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or pberton@thespec.com

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