Caution: Hideous neologisms ahead.

thIf you’re looking for misuse of the English language but don’t want to hang around with politicians, doctors or civil servants, consider reading press releases. My inbox is full of the things and they frequently cause rude, rude noises to come out of my mouth.

“Guestspert”? Are you (bleeping) kidding me?

Whaaat? When did “e-tailers” become a word?

“Turntabalist”? Your parents must be so proud.

Sometimes, though, neologisms have their revenge: They become so ubiquitous  that I find myself using them, either in print or aloud.

When I say things like “repurposed,” I want to smack myself. On purpose.

Or how about “I know, right?” and “going forward”? How did these get to be such earwigs?

Since I see no reason to suffer solo, I’m sharing some of the most egregious examples with you. All are from press releases. Names are being withheld, to protect those who ought to be ashamed of themselves.

It’s no game

“Reputational capital” – Regarding about a certain large bank’s decision to charge a monthly fee for debit cards. (That decision was later rescinded, apparently to salvage what was left of the company’s reputational capital.)

“Gamification” – This is apparently the process of turning something into a game. I propose a second, related neologism that’s just one letter off: gagification, the process of turning someone’s stomach with words like “gamification.”

“Bigfooting” – The practice of going out on a Sasquatch hunt. (Not too far removed from a snipe hunt, I’m afraid.) Breaking my promise of anonymity: This one’s from the TV show “Finding Bigfoot,” which my friend Linda B. and I think would make the greatest drinking game ever. Any time some says “Bigfooting,” “’Squatching,” “’Squatch,” “’Squatchy” or – my personal favorite – “Blobsquatch,” take a drink. Just have a non-drinker around to call 911 when you all keel over from alcohol poisoning.

(This is not to say that I don’t think Bigfoot could exist. I have no doubt that an animal could hide out in some areas. After all, Anchorage has resident bears, lynx, porcupines, coyotes and wolves, among other critters, but I rarely see them. But until the folks from “Finding Bigfoot” can display more than Blobsquatches and cryptic hair samples, Linda B. and I remain unconvinced.)

Being boundaried

“Favorited” – Sometimes I get an e-mail saying someone has “favorited” one of my tweet. I’m not sure I want to live in this world, especially since I just used the word “tweet” even though I am not a bird.

“Patroning” – Apparently consumers are “patroning” specialty food shops, even in the recession. Apparently times are so tight that the person sending the press release couldn’t afford the extra “zi” that would have saved the word.

“Boundaried” – If you guessed that a psychotherapist used the sentence, “You have to be very boundaried,” you’d be correct. And I disagree: I don’t have to be boundaried at all. In fact, I reject this state entirely.

“Customer experience transformist” – This is an actual job title. It makes me want to lie down with a cold cloth on my eyes.

“Wardrobing” – The act of buying a product from a retailer (most commonly high-end clothing, but it can be other items as well), using it and then returning it for a refund. This could just as easily be called “fraud,” but no one seems to want to do that. (I know, right?)

Readers: Got any neologisms of your own to bemoan?

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  1. “Trending” makes me grind my teeth and twitch. I bacame very upset the first time I saw this word. I cannot let rude sounds come out so I twitch. Any new word with “Bieber” gagifies me.

    Is “boundaried” the same as being rule-bound? Or, does it mean a person must have boundaries?

    • Donna Freedman

      Apparently the latter… “Trend” is another word I consider a noun, never a verb. Sigh.

  2. Mary Beth Elderton

    Thank You! These may be from the same people who say “utilize”–it’s better than “use,” because it’s a big word. It has syllables. See how smart they are?

  3. How about “that said”, as in “That said, the new car is sleek.”? Whatever happened to “Having said that, I think the new car is sleek.” And the improper use of the word “incredible”, by people trying to express amazement. The word really means “not credible”. Can we strike both of these from common usage?

    I realize neither of these is a neologism, but, that said, it’s incredible. Heh.

    • Donna Freedman

      Don’t get me going on “literally.” Once read a blog post about wasting money and a commenter said she had a friend like that, a friend who had money “literally flying out the window.” I commented, “If that’s literally true, then your friend needs to invest in some screens.”

  4. Two phrases that people constantly use that really get under my skin are: “My bad…” which sounds to me like a weak excuse phrase people use when they do something really stupid. And “What is your social ….?” I want to scream “My social what!??!!? Are you too lazy to say ‘What is your social security number'”?? Wow, that would take an extra nano second! There are so many more that bother me but that’s my vent for the morning!

  5. Melissa

    Although it’s officially a part of the english language – “disrespect” makes me cringe every time. Apparently saying someone is rude or selfish does not convey the correct low brow tone.

    • Donna Freedman

      I think of disrespect as a noun, not a verb. Ditto “parent,” “journal” and “scrapbook.”

  6. PR Dummies is my favorite feature on Gawker for this reason. I hate the phrase “in real-time.” as opposed to unreal time?

    • Donna Freedman

      Or how about “circle back”? A lot of publicists are writing, “I just wanted to circle back and see if you have any interest in Topic XYZ.”
      What makes me nuts is that in almost every case I did answer! Either my replies get buried in their e-mails or they’re just not checking. I take great, cranky glee in responding, “My Hotmail archive indicates that I replied with ‘Not a match, thanks’ on March 14.”
      Maybe their own e-mails operate in unreal time.

  7. I have so many I can’t stand it.

    When did “a problem” suddenly become “problematic”? How pretentious!

  8. imjunipernow

    I dunno, they’re not all bad.

    At the dry cleaner on my cousin’s Army base the first thing they ask you is “Last Four?” which is how they ticket your clothes (“Last Four” being the last four numbers of your Social Security Number).

    If I think of any others, I’ll ax you if I can find where you’re at.

    • Donna Freedman

      When I was 13 and 14, I picked tomatoes for a greenhouse owner who was once an English teacher. Any time that I or my co-worker said, “Where’s it at?” she’s reply, “Right before the ‘at’.”
      Hard to argue with someone who’s paying you $1.35 an hour. In retrospect, I’m glad she broke me of that habit.

  9. I have to provide a quick defense of “patroning,” even though I must admit that the “word” sets my teeth on edge. There is a real problem with the verb patronize, as we most often use it in terms of talking down to someone. When I was a smart-ass high school student, my friends and I would talk about (we never did it) going back into restaurants that thanked us for patronizing them and asking “Are you a GOOD burger joint? Yes, you are!” in tones dripping with sarcasm.

    So, I do think that the English language is ready for a word that means “being a patron of” that does not also mean “being a dick to.” I would never EVER claim that “patroning” is that word, but I can understand the thinking behind it.

  10. How about the rampant use of “natural” and “organic” on food labels… such as “natural” cereals, rice blends, lunchmeats or frozen, mixed vegetables? As opposed to what? Wood pulp and rat droppings are “natural”. I’ve also found myself wondering if there is such a thing as “organic” powdered cheese (for mac n’ cheese mixes) or manufactured meats (for canned broths).

    • Donna Freedman

      The hemlock that Socrates drank was “all-natural,” too.

    • Barbara R.

      My mother had a favorite reply to anyone who who tried to convince her to try a product by saying, “It’s natural.”

      “So is arsenic.”

  11. Barbara R.

    Nouns should not be verbified!

  12. Verbing weirds language!

    I guess I’m not really bothered with neologisms or shortening of phrases. I’m in a tech-y field so I’m already surrounded by jargon. What does tend to get me though is the corporate speak which tries to make anything and everything sound somehow positive.

  13. mrs. short

    “Showrooming.” Best Buy just made it up, I think. They have a new policy to match online prices to combat showrooming, which is the practice of going to the BB stores to actually see the product, then going home and buying it elsewhere.

    Another one, although I don’t think it is what you’re really looking for (but I hate it so much) is using the word “boast” to talk about inanimate objects… “The home boasts a beautiful foyer that opens up to a great room.” Really? The room boasts? Wow! That house is REALLY special – it talks! Brags, even!

  14. Jenny Kelson

    I hate the word “friended”. “Tweet” is just as bad, but friended is used so much more, with social networking being such a big part of our culture now.

    And I know this is not quite the same thing, but I know grown women who use the phrase “OMG” in speech. Or they’ll say, “brb”, etc. Our culture shortens everything…

    Love this article!

  15. pamelasumemrs

    “gifted” or re-gifted”. I hate this usage. When did this noun become a verb? Give and given are still around.

  16. reach out to.

    People don’t just get in touch or talk anymore?


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