Chillaxin’ in the Stacks

By , August 17, 2012 11:46 am

by Kristine Lloyd

When it comes time to orient new associates, I have learned that I must keep the SNL skit references to myself. I once said to a new group that the difference between Lexis and Westlaw was like the difference between McDonald’s and McDowell’s, in what I thought was a fun reference to Coming to America. They stared at me. A couple even smiled politely in pity for what they sensed was an attempt at humor.

If you want to maintain your hip quotient in the face of an ever-youthful class of associates, then you should at a minimum study the newest update to the Oxford English Dictionary. New words like chillax, muffin top, bromance, bling and Homer Simpson’s D’oh have officially made it into the OED’s sanctioned lexicon, although I got the raised eyebrow from a young associate when I used the word “chillax” in conversation. I guess this is a little like your mom singing “Like a Virgin” when you are in 6th grade (which mine did), an older person’s embarrassing foray into the wilds of youth. And clearly my mother was not a virgin.  

Our jargon is reflective of our times, especially the times we grew up in, and somehow, that is what stays with us. Granted, the OED is certainly not the most current source of evolving linguistic trends, but they do eventually absorb and reflect our vernacular shifts.

I can’t help but think that stodgy prescriptivists like my grandmother and William Safire (both of whom I greatly admire) would be rolling in their graves. For a great read on prescriptivism v. descriptivism, check out David Foster Wallace’s essay, “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage” (also titled “Authority and American Usage” in Consider the Lobster).

For a really entertaining pictographic explanation of these new terms, check out this slideshow, but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the mankini.

One Response to “Chillaxin’ in the Stacks”

  1. Jan Lawrence says:

    I tried using “bling” in a game of online Scrabble the other day and was shocked when it was rejected!

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