Neologisms – August 2017

August 2, 2017 9:58 am

Language is alive and constantly developing. It is fascinating to watch new words being coined from day to day. Therefore, we are starting a series of posts on neologisms that will hopefully be both entertaining and informative.

Neologisms - funny picture of neon light frogs, similar to the Three wise monkeys

Neologisms are newly coined terms, words, or phrases, that may be commonly used in everyday life but have yet to be formally accepted as constituting mainstream language. As lexicographer Erin McKean said in her 2014 TED Talk: “Everybody who speaks English decides together what’s a word and what’s not a word. Every language is just a group of people who agree to understand each other.”

Neologisms appear in all areas of life, as people talk or write about new concepts, realia or ways of analysing them. For instance, people discuss the economic issues that affect them as consumers, workers, producers, investors, citizens and in other roles they assume over a lifetime. It’s no surprise that there is a surge of neologisms describing various trends in modern economy. Here are some of them:

Cup of Cappuccino

  • cappuccino economy

The image is a cappuccino coffee – strong at the base but frothy on the top. A prominent neologism site www.wordspy.com defines it as “an economy that displays frenzied growth or activity in one sector while showing only steady growth or activity in other sectors.” The expression “cappuccino economy” or “cappuccino economics” was first used as far back as 1998, but continued to appear in later publications:

“Many children of the boom often romanticize the early days of Silicon Valley as a period of pure, non-entrepreneurial geekdom. But it might be time (…) to embrace the effervescent nature of Silicon Valley, a place that Paul Saffo, a technology consultant who saw the rise of the P.C., is inclined to describe as a ‘cappuccino economy’.” — Gary Rivlin, “In Silicon Valley, the Crash Seems Like Just Yesterday,” The New York Times, 3 June 2007.

Gig word in 3D letters on a sphere of dollar signs to illustrate temporary work, earnings or freelance income

  • gig economy (also referred to as peer-to-peer economy and on-demand economy)

The underlying image of the metaphor is a gig – “a live performance, either musical, theatrical, or physical” (Urban Dictionary). In its earliest usage, gig work referred to jazz club musicians in the 1920s. Some features, such as the fact that workers do not get healthcare, pensions or paid holiday, have hardly changed since. Transposed to economics, gig economy is used to refer to an economic sector consisting of freelancers who take on a series of small jobs, particularly when those jobs are contracted online using a website or an application. The phrase “gig economy” was coined at the height of the financial crisis in early 2009, when the unemployed made a living by gigging, or combining part-time jobs, wherever they could. More recently, the word has been in the news in connection with companies such as Uber and Airbnb. Uber has even given rise to another neologism – uberization. This word is generally used to refer to the phenomenon whereby a start-up or a new economic model related to the digital economy threatens to replace an old economic model.

Some neologisms do not really take off. That seems to be the case of sheconomy, used by Time Magazine in 2010.

Head of woman, in profile. Several objects inside her mind.

  • sheconomy (or she-conomy)

This word was coined to describe an economic system where women have a greater control of incomes and spending in both households and society. Sheconomy is not gaining traction but the tendency to combine roots, or to mix prefixes with roots, is not all that uncommon. Take, for example, the term greenconomy (short for “green economy”), which can also be found as a trending hashtag on Twitter. Most of these constructions rely on the reader being clever enough to figure them out, with the hope that the reader will also appreciate the wittiness of the newly-coined term.

For more neologisms on a variety of topics check out TermCoord’s collection of neologism websites.


Written by Yelena Radley, former Terminology Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg), language teacher and sociolinguist.

Post prepared by Pedro Ramos, Translator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg).

Sources:

  • David, B., Chalon, R., & Yin, C. (2016). “Collaborative systems & Shared Economy (Uberization): Principles & Case Study”. In Proceedings of the International Conference on e-Learning, e-Business, Enterprise Information Systems, and e-Government (EEE) (p. 134). The Steering Committee of The World Congress in Computer Science, Computer Engineering and Applied Computing (WorldComp). Available at: http://bit.ly/2tJUvJf (Accessed 20 June 2017)
  • English Language and Usage, http://bit.ly/2uUeUwQ (Accessed 20 June 2017)
  • Hook, L. (2015) “Year in a word: Gig economy”, Financial times, 29.12.2015 http://on.ft.com/2rMOw9P (Accessed 20 June 2017)
  • Luscombe, B. (2010), ‘Woman Power: The Rise of the Sheconomy’, Time Magazine, 22.11.2010, http://ti.me/2f4yJ0A (Accessed on 19.06.2017)
  • Shapiro E. (2000) “Managing in the cappuccino economy”, Business Harvard Review. Available at: http://bit.ly/2tVBZxO (Accessed 20 June 2017)
  • Urban Dictionary, http://bit.ly/2ejguky (Accessed 20 June 2017)
  • WordSpy, http://bit.ly/2w2ahBc (Accessed 20 June 2017)

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