Saturday, November 19, 2005

Growth of words

A society gives many clues about its nature and type. The present society is no exception and the vital clues are in place in the language used to describe people. Each word here is pointer towards the route society is travelling today. With the family shrinking daily, there is a quest for new mates and ‘animal companion’, an amendment made on the word ‘pet’ is often the solution to the problem of loneliness. Along with the growth of movements like People For Animals or PFA, a concern has been voiced, since the 1980s, that calling an animal a pet is inherently exploitative by implication, treating the animal companion as a mere possession.

Medicine and commerce are inextricably linked today, the evidence comes from slang like this one: gomer. In medispeak, gomer stands for ‘Get Out of My Emergency Room’. A patient unlikely to respond to treatment and therefore unrewarding of effort is labelled ‘gomer’ in hospital jargon.

The word ‘geek’ is related to the Dutch gek that means ‘mad’ or ‘silly’ and refers to an unfashionable, boring or socially inept person. A geek is also a person who is obsessed with some hobby: there is the movie geek, computer geek or music geek. Geek has developed a number of derivatives like the adjectives geekish and geeky, the noun geekiness and the adverb geekishly.

Consumerism has created many new personality types who need fresh labels. The urge to win as many prizes as possible has given birth to ‘comper’, a person who regularly enters competitions to win as much as possible. A comper is a professional competition entrant named after ‘comp’, the abbreviation of competition. A foodie is a person whose main interest in life is food. Just as adding the suffix –ie to group, formed groupie, foodie was created the same way in the eighties. This neologism received encouragement from the food and wine pages of magazines and newspapers along with the growth of an industry that revolves around food. The true foodie is not just a gourmet, but also enjoys talking about food, reading about it and preparing it.