Are These the Language Trends of 2016?

Katie Sweeney
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Adam Katz Sinding for W

It seems like every couple of months, I’m discussing some new vocabulary word. Whether it be panicking about being too basic to a best friend ("This guy at the bar last night called me basic. Do you think I’m basic?") or explaining the term "fleek" to my mother ("Well, I believe it had something to do with eyebrows, but now it just means on point."), there is always some new noun, adjective, or verb that all the cool kids are saying. That’s why I was curious to read an Economist  article that attempts to predict the language trends of the coming year.

“It is impossible to know what new words will become fashionable in the year ahead: Some of the buzzwords of 2016 have not yet been coined,” writes Robert Lane Greene. “But a few of the trends likely to shape the year are apparent, and they provide hints about the vocabulary that may be in vogue.” Greene goes on to forecast a variety of possible new types of words, which I have listed below. Note that one term that is very out, according to Facebook, is LOL. No one is using it anymore.

  • Words inspired by technology. Many terms were once nouns and jumped to verbs in common language. Email, Facebook, and Google are examples. Greene believes that Slack and Venmo will follow suit in 2016.
  • Words made up by office workers. Greene points out that “office workers will keep mangling the language with words that shouldn’t exist,” and predicts that new words will join the popular terms (millennialisation, ideation, learnings) made up by office employees.
  • Abbreviations taken from lawyer speak. Have you heard of the term LDL? It means "Let’s discuss live," and it is often used by lawyers writing emails who don’t want to write anything that could be potentially incriminating, so they recommend talking about it in person. Since emails can be evidence in all sorts of cases, this is an abbrev that I think will catch on. I’m going to start using it!
  • Terms invented by black American or gay groups. Greene believes that many word fads, such as “Netflix and chill” or “throwing shade” often start in subcultures like gay and black American groups. So pay attention to what your gay best friend is saying—he could be on the pulse of a new word trend. 

To learn more about this topic, read The Social Origins of Language.

What new words are you using?

Explore: language, Words, trends, 2016

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