Neologisms


You know you’re getting old (or just out of touch) when certain words used on social networking sites start to annoy you. To wit, the use of “Squee” and “Meh” in postings. Okay, it’s a given that all words are new at some point in their usage, right? Indeed the term for a new word is “Neologism”– if you’re a big fan of highfalutin/SAT/GRE terms — and it’s origin can be traced to the 1700s. So I suppose before the 1700s people must have just said “new word” for when they encountered a, um, new word.

Now according the neologistic repository called Urban Dictionary, “Squee” has two origins. One is the the sound a fangirl (usually one who is in love with anime) makes when she reads, views, or experiences something she loves that she “squeals with glee” — hence the word “squee.”

The other origin story of the word comes from a couple of comic books where one of the characters is nicknamed “Squee” because of a sounds he makes when frightened. So you have “Squeal with glee” and “a sound when frightened.” Both extreme reactions to an experience that produce the word “Squee.” Now that I know more about where this word came from, I think I hate it all the more.

Now, what about “Meh.” Well, that one, it seems, is a neologism that the writers of The Simpsons made up and because the show is so popular, it just kind of caught on because the word pretty much describes how we feel when we shrug with indifference.

Now, I’ve heard people say “Meh,” but I have yet to hear someone actually say “Squee” as it’s usually written on Facebook (i.e., “squeeeeeeeeeee!”). And again, it may be my age (I am, after all, old), but when I hear someone over 40 say “Meh,” it strikes me as trying too hard to be current.

In this day and age, words like these are also quite fleeting…much like a status update on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter.  Their lifespan is shortened by the fact that once the term as been adopted by the mainstream, the lovers of “all things new” have moved on. Sure, we can say that for many slangs that get adopted by the mainstream, but people (young and old) still say “cool,” and that’s a term that’s been around for a long time.

My favorite definition of a neologism, however, is not that it’s a new word, but one that comes out of the study of the human mind and our individual behavior:

Neologism: Psychiatry . a new word, often consisting of a combination of other words, that is understood only by the speaker: occurring most often in the speech of schizophrenics.

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