Monday, May 28, 2018

Woke-up Call

Are you woke? No, I'm not really asking you to sit up straight at the back there and pay attention. As those of you who are down-there-with-the-kids will know – people like me, at least since last weekend – 'woke' means what we used to call 'with it' or even 'hip'.

Some of you guys may have noticed we had a big do over here then for our Harry and your Meghan and apparently they are 'woke'. It was a 'woke' wedding, apparently. (If you didn't catch it, everything went pretty well, thanks, we all had a great time, not a dry eye in the house and after only four or five days one or two of the more serious papers devoted a page or two to other news.)

Vocabulary changes fast these days. The Oxford Dictionary publishes updates every year and names their word of the year; since 2009 these have included 'selfie', 'youthquake', 'omnishambles' and 'post-truth'. I guess 'fake news' and 'snowflake' will make the list this year.

Particularly if you have youthful characters in your books, you have to keep up with modern vocabulary and it's really dangerous, since nothing jars so badly as a proudly used 'youth' word that is just so 2017. 'Fit' and 'buff' seem well-embedded now and in my currently limited experience of teenagers (children too old, grandchildren too young) they still seem to say 'like' a lot. As in 'He said to me, and I was, like, "What??!!" '

How do we keep up? John, you're in a good place with your young students. I read the newspapers, I watch TV and films, but unless you are around them every day it's a struggle not to sound as if you're not very competently speaking a foreign language.

And then there are the words that have been dropped as no longer in use. The trouble is, if you've used them all your life you don't necessarily know that this one's gone. There was a recent list published that includes words like 'esurient' for 'hungry' and 'caducity' for 'infirm old age' and certainly I've never used either of those. But I might have to plead guilty to 'slugabed' – superseded, I suppose' by 'couch potato', though since I haven't checked that may be a yesterday's word as well by now.

I don't do it deliberately. I had a charming email from a reader who said she had a notebook headed 'Aline's Words' and liked to write them down if she didn't know what they meant. Oh dear.


Unknown said...

Aline, thanks for rescuing me from a horrible fate. I'm off right now to my YA manuscript to remove all those instances of "esurient" and "caducity," which I so innocently assumed were currently used among the young. I may instead call on my late aunt's vocabulary, which included "reticule" and "counterpane."

Donna S said...

Hi Aline, I enjoyed your post.

I just hope the fad of misusing the word "fun" stops soon - I find it super annoying. As in, "nothing was funner than going skiing" or "it was the funnest time I ever had". Even newspapers are jumping on the bandwagon. And maybe that saying is obsolete, I don't know.

Sybil Johnson said...

I, apparently, am not "woke". Thanks for letting me know what that means. I did catch snippets of "the wedding".

Aline Templeton said...

I have to admit that,having been briefly 'woke I've found it too exhausting and gone back to sleep!