Saturday, April 24, 2004


Catch me if you can


Neologisms are hitting the lexicon faster than the speed of a fast bowler’s deliveries; the dictionary finds it hard to keep pace. New words hold the trends of society and the dictionary is the mirror that reflects these trends but today, the poor dictionary should be a video camera if it is to faithfully capture each new word. Retrosexual is one such neologism acknowledged by the print media. The retrosexual man has an undeveloped aesthetic sense. He spends as little time and money as possible on his appearance and lifestyle. In 1994, Bebe Buell, the singer had released a CD titled Retrosexual but it took one decade for the word to reach the tongue. Retrosexual is the exact antithesis of metrosexual.

But, why the prefix ‘retro’? The word retro has been ‘borrowed’ by English from Latin, where it means backwards. This prefix has created words like retrospect and retrogress, which is the antonym of progress. The passing years have brought so many versions of the male that a qualifier like retrosexual is now needed to identify the male who is what males were once stereotyped as.

Retro-, the prefix has created retrodefiance, which means ‘a hostility towards current ideas about healthy living and a preference for a return to allegedly non-healthy habits such as smoking and eating red meat’. Defiance is originally from Old French, where it was defier, meaning defy. It then came to Middle English, where it stood for the renunciation of an allegiance or friendship and today it means open resistance or bold disobedience.

In the same vein is coined the word retrofuturism, which refers to a return to the phrases and concepts characteristic of the futurism of the 1950s and 60s. The musical group Tape-beatles which launched a magazine called Retrofuturism in 1987 coined retrofuturism. Futurism was an artistic movement that violently rejected traditional forms so as to celebrate and incorporate into art the energy and dynamism of modern technology. Also with the same idea of a move backwards chronologically, the neologism retrophilia refers to an intense attraction for things of the past.

Neologisms are often formed in clusters around one structure, like the above cluster around retro-. One such paradigm is the yuppie paradigm. Yuppie or yuppy was formed from the initial letters of the ‘young urban/upwardly mobile professional’, who is a well-paid, young middle-class professional with a luxurious life style. A buzzword of the 1980s, it generated many derivatives: yuppiedom, yuppieism, yuppiness, yuppification, yupspeak, yuppette and yupmobile. Today, after more than two decades have passed, yuppiness seems to have become a little tarnished around the edges and this can be seen from the spin-offs it has generated. Yuppie has created duppie, a depressed urban professional who once had a high status or highly paid job but must now work in a menial or lower paid job.


The puritans often frown upon the creation of neologisms in Hindi but, in the ultimate analysis, ownership of a language rests with the user. Most of the compound words of Hindi are based on the experience of the user. For instance, a root sweet as sugar becomes shakkarkandi and a ball of juice is christened rasgulla. Rasgulla has been given a new twist by the audio-media; an anecdote-based programme stands titled Hansgulle, created from the word hans or laugh and the latter part of rasgulle, giving ‘ball of laughter’. And, the sweetness lingers…