8 new words in the Oxford dictionary & what they say about our lives

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Any semiotician will tell you that language reflects ways of living and thinking, and more specifically, words can provide valuable clues to understanding culture. So it’s always interesting to see how our language is evolving with the latest new words added to the Oxford online dictionary.

New words, senses, and phrases are added once enough independent evidence from a range of sources has been gathered to prove their widespread use in English, providing an interesting snapshot of the current zeitgeist.

So here are 8 that we thought particularly interesting and – partly for fun and partly because we do believe it offers some insight – our thoughts on what they say about our culture (NB No semiotician was harmed in the writing of this post!)

1. Yolo: an acronym for ‘you only live once’
Popular with the Millennial generation, their expectations have been set by immediate, intuitive and real-time digital technology, and amplified by an uncertain world full of uncertain futures. 

2. Humblebrag: an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement, the actual purpose of which is to draw attention to something of which one is proud
In a world where sharing is king everyone needs social currency, but with a growing backlash against portraying ‘perfect selves’ on social media – and the pressure it puts others under – it has become increasingly important to be able to show off without being seen to show off.

3. Bro-hug: another term for ‘man hug’ and is used to describe two males embracing
The nature of masculinity is being redefined and it’s confusing: as men realise that anything they can do women can do too, so it’s also become more important to find symbols of masculinity that can be owned – from the manly hug (all back thumping and macho) to the beard trend.

4. Binge-watch:  to avidly watch something – usually a box-set – in one sitting (specifically 3 or more episodes)
When the whole ‘House of Cards’ season was released in one go it was to meet consumers increasing demand to be in control, manipulate technology and media to serve them – not play by old rules. It’s not just a sign of the way TV is changing, its the way the world is changing.

5. Hyperconnected: characterized by the widespread or habitual use of devices that have Internet connectivity:
In our (increasingly) hyperconnected world, wifi is seen as a basic need, employees expect to work from anywhere, and being without your smartphone causes withdrawal symptoms. For the ‘digital native’ generations connected technology is becoming the new normal

6. ICYMI: In case you missed it (used in electronic communication to draw attention to something noteworthy)
The trouble with living in a hyper connected world is that there is so much going on, its all to suffer ‘FOMO‘ (fear of missing out); increasingly people are looking for ways to edit and curate the information around them – simplifying overcrowded lives so they don’t miss the important things

7. Bank of mum and dad: a person’s parents regarded as a source of financial assistance or support
The recession hit young people disproportionately hard with youth unemployment a huge issue. At the same time the Boomer generation – ie. their parents – is one of the wealthiest. Finding ways to transfer that wealth (also think property, jobs, leadership) from a sizeable older generation living longer to a sizeable younger one is going to be a key source of tension 

Finally, this one is a Brand Genetics favourite…

8. Pogonophobia: Extreme dislike of beards
Have we hit ‘peak-beard’? Research conducted by the University of NSW found that, when people are confronted by a succession of bearded men, clean-shaven men become more attractive to them.  In a potential boom to companies like Gilette the research warned ‘The bigger the trend gets, the weaker the preference for beards’ – so get those razors out guys…

If anyone has any neologisms they feel signify our age then please let us know via the comments section. We’d love to build this ‘listicle‘ further!


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