Thugby

9 02 2012

I saw a word in The Sydney Morning Herald today that has probably been around before but not noted by me. It was “thugby league”. Clearly this is a blend of “thug” and “rugby” and a  very clever way to highlight the glorified violence that some kinds of contact sports entail. Such blends resonate with accrued meanings and giver the user of a language a strong feeling of embeddedness with the culture underpinning the language. They may or may not survive in the long run. Many do eg “smog”, “brunch”, naturalizing to the point that their “blending” origins are almost forgotten.

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Precariat: new word for a new class?

1 02 2012

 

I want you to know I’m not an uncritical lover of new words. And it’s not solely because they’re new. I do discriminate, and among my favourites may be found new words for groups of people, whose very labelling tells us something about the world we live in.

One such newie is precariat, clearly a blend of “precarious” and the suffix “–at”, perhaps best characterised in the term the “proletariat”. The use of the definite article (“the”) is a dead giveaway too. I’m thinking of other coinages in this category, like the commentariat.  The category is typified by member nouns, using the suffix “-ian”: proletarian, Rotarian, authoritarian, establishmentarian, totalitarian, libertarian.

I found it in an advertisement for an upcoming lecture at The University of Sydney, where, no doubt, all will be explained.

See below:

 http://sydney.edu.au/sydney_ideas/index.shtml

The Precariat: A new dangerous underclass

9 February, 6.00pm
A generation of educated people now start their working life in debt,  but many are not offered any job security in the new flexible labour market, and drift towards casual and part-time work. Will they form a new under-class that threaten existing social structures?  Professor Guy Standing, Professor of Economic Security at the University of Bath, has coined a new term for these people and others in social and economic insecurity—the precariat

Millions of people, including many in Australia, are entering a global precariat, part of a class structure shaped by globalisation. This lecture, drawing on a new book, poses five questions. What is the precariat? Why care? Why is it growing? Who is most likely to be in it? And where is it leading us?

The brief answer to the first question is that it consists of millions of people in social and economic insecurity, without occupational identities, drifting in and out of jobs, constantly worried about their incomes, housing and much else. It particularly affects youth, many realising that their certificates and degrees are little more than lottery tickets, leading many into status frustration.

Will the precariat’s growth lead towards an authoritarian politics of inferno, with neo-fascist overtones? Or will a progressive agenda emerge in the squares and cities of protest, responding to Enlightenment values and the aspirations of the educated younger generation being drawn into the precariat?

The lecture will examine the labour market dynamics underpinning the growth of the precariat and outline the new ‘politics of paradise’ taking shape outside the political mainstream.





Barracking

13 01 2012

Interesting question, by David Rowe,  in today’s online The Punch: Is it unAustralian to barrack for the other team?   http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/is-it-unaustralian-to-barrack-for-the-other-team/. It derives from the old chestnut – the Bradman question – that was designed for new immigrants way-back-when and much discussed in the media.

I quote: “ At issue was the necessary national cultural knowledge for an aspiring citizen contained in the test-prepping document Becoming an Australian Citizen.  Here the reader learnt that Australians like sport and are proud of their achievements in it (especially in cricket) and that `Sir Donald Bradman was the greatest cricket batsman of all time’.”

The Bradman question has gone by the wayside, but the “nation-sport nexus” continues. At the very minimum, governments seem to think that new immigrants need formally to be advised that Australians love their spectator sports. As if that itself were not daily, and everywhere, obvious. As if, too, it’s necessary for their adaptation and acculturation (if no longer “assimilation”).

My concern here, as ever, is the use in the title of the word “barracking” and a simple pondering thought about when the term might be deployed for whatever purpose in the circus of US  presidential pre-election fever.

From where we stand now, it seems rather inevitable.





Stir-fry parenting

18 12 2011

Sometimes a new word or phrase can capture a concept that earlier defied description. I discovered one such today when I was reading the entry by Kate Hunter on the Mama Mia Blog (http://www.mamamia.com.au. It was stir-fry parenting, the definition for which can be inferred from the following quotation:

“Kids are not cakes; they’re more like stir-fries.You can kind of make it up as you go along. I know people who disagree and slavishly follow the recipe – thinking if they add the correct quantities of organic vegetables, time out and Italian tuition the only possible outcome is a genial Rhodes scholar with Wimbledon potential. These people stress if an ingredient is unavailable or forgotten. They spend their lives checking to see how it’s working and angsting through the oven door.

Those who subscribe to stir-fry parenting work with what they have. Sure, there are a few rules to follow – a hot wok works best, ingredients should be more or less the same size –  but the results are delicious, exciting and the best part is no two stir-fries are ever the same”.

Unless you’re super-confident, the ability to be a stir-fry parent probably doesn’t emerge until you have had your second or third child. By then you’ve come to appreciate that there’s a gap between what you plan and what emerges from the plan, and often what emerges is preferable to the plan. When this happens you start to trust the universe a bit more.





The Birth of Rebirth

21 06 2011

I love new words. Especially those that seem to have emerged spontaneously from who-knows-where.

Listening to the news this morning, I heard mention of the word “rebirthing” in relation to cars and seemingly (on first inference) illegal activity. This interpretation came less from “rebirth” than from  words like “racket”, “illegal” and the giveaway,  “crooks”. I discovered more on the ABC website  http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/stories/s126387.htm

Professional car thieves around Australia are now running a lucrative racket based on what’s called ‘car rebirthing’. It’s a practice which involves making a stolen vehicle appear legitimate by using the identification number from another vehicle.

A bit more investigation (aka Google) revealed  326,000 hits. I’m amazed. Where has this word been all this time? I know it’s relatively new because its use in the print media is still accompanied by inverted commas eg the headline: States struggle to combat car “rebirthing”. But if the racket continues, we’re sure to lose the quote marks.

Again with Google, I sought to discover how flexible it has become, grammatically speaking, in its presumably short life.  Already we have the gerund – rebirthing. And the adjective rebirthed (eg a number of rebirthed cars…). There’s the infinitive form to rebirth (eg it’s still possible to rebirth a stolen vehicle in South Australia using a NSW identity). And the passive infinitive   (eg They must know that some of these cars… are going to some unscrupulous…characters to be rebirthed.)  And finally, there’s the simple common noun – rebirths (eg there’s an estimated 5000 rebirths a year), which like many common nouns, gives one the feeling of a well-established practice.

I predict new forms coming along any day now, like the agent noun rebirther:  eg What do you do? I’m a car rebirther. How about you? Or the present participle form eg What time will you be home, honey? Late, I’m afraid, I’ll be rebirthing all day.

One thing that I find quite curious is the actual choice of word. Of course, we’ve seen/heard rebirth used before, in the context of certain religious beliefs and also of fringe health remedies – where a person’s crippling mental problems are tracked back to an allegedly difficult birth, and through a guided mediation, that person is allowed to rebirth, and in doing so successfully, allegedly casts away all the heavy baggage and can start again, fresh and innocent. (All in all, this sounds a lot “cleaner” than years of psychoanalysis.).

But such a process is quite removed from the illegal racket of car rebirthing. All of which suggests to me that it was likely to have been someone within the automobile racket who came up with the name, much as used furniture might be called “pre-loved” or designer clothes “recycled” or “vintage(d)”.

It’s a nice example of how words don’t drop off the backs of trucks, without heritage or provenance. They arrive with meaningful connections and then proceed to develop in ways that speak volumes about  the work they do and the societies they live in.





Globalwarmist, Assangist, Birther

12 04 2011

Three new words being used around and about. Only time will reveal  how successfully they penetrate the lexicon. Linguistically, they follow something of a pattern: each denoting someone who is or does something specific, like teacher, doctor, builder or horticulturalist, anarchist or linguist.

Globalwarmist -a person who subscribes to the belief that global warming, caused by humans’ heavy carbon footprint, is threatening Earth in serious and perhaps irreversible ways. Although the contexts in which I have seen this word being used so far impart a neutral stance, I suspect that globalwarmist may assume some negative connotations, depending on who uses it, to whom, and in what context. If globalwarming is perceived as a new religion of sorts, then a globalwarmist would take on the meaning of a particular kind of zealot.  Used in a sentence: They’re both globalwarmists so you can imagine what they talk about at breakfast.

Assangist –  a person who believes in/follows/subscribes to the belief system/political credo of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, essentially the hacker’s doctrine, that all information wants to be free. At this stage in the uncovering process,  and appreciating that it’s as yet early days, I wonder why so far so much of the leaked information is that which supports the thinking of the enemies of the West. Doesn’t everyone have secrets?  Used  in a sentence: They went to the public lecture but the debate was dominated by Assangists.

Birther – a term used for an apparently growing (?) number of American citizens, among them Donald Trump (he with the hair), who suspect that President Obama may not have been born in the USA as claimed and therefore would not have been eligible for the Presidency.  There’s a quality to this rumour that smells intensely like an urban myth – the apocryphal that never seems to satisfy attempts at authentification. Conspiracy theories are thick on the ground, especially when distrust of government prevails. Used in a sentence: Birthers started out as the lunatic fringe but who knows where they’ll end up.

image courtesy of Gage Skidmore





STOP PRESS: “heart” is a verb now

29 03 2011

 

You know those T-shirts that announce I LOVE NEW YORK, except that the “love” is replaced by a red heart?  Like this:  And ever since,  the idea has been propagated successfully with any number of cities, places, pop stars and you-name-its.

Now a new trend has started, a kind of backformation. Instead of being semiotically concise with the red heart symbol, there’s evidence now of people using “heart” as a verb. Essentially, to replace “love”. Thus, I love you becomes I heart you. Hence also:  I heart Sydney or I heart summer.

Yes I know, it’s a replacement of one single syllable by one single syllable, hence saving no one at all any time at all.  But possibly babies being born right now will, in 15 years, be hearting their first boy/girl friend. Maybe sooner, if that story about push-up bras being sold to 8-year old girls is true.

The I + heart + object is the transitive form.  The suggested usage (from the Oxford, no less) is: I heart the fact that this is in the O.E.D. No news yet about the infinitive: it is better to heart and lose than not to heart at all. Nothing about the gerund:  Life is all about hearting. Nor the adjectival participle: He broke my hearting soul.

I’m wondering now if we’re to see a backformation from the backformation: where say, “open-heart surgery” might morph into “open-love surgery”. It’s a waiting game.