Before 1912, anyone who heard the word ambivalence would have raised an eyebrow, or shrugged, uncertain about what it could mean.
That's because "ambivalence," as a word, didn't exist until 101 years ago, according to Oxford Dictionaries, and neither did "jazz," nor "vitamin." Language has always evolved, along with sentiments about kids these days and their crazy slang, no doubt, but the advent of the Internet and a few crazy dance moves has introduced a number of new words that would have baffled us a decade or two ago. (If they don't continue to baffle us.)
i09 compiled 14 examples of new and wondrous words, including "blog," which is ubiquitous in everyday speech, though the shortened word for "weblog" has only existed for about 15 years. "Paywall," an online system for blocking access to websites for those without paid subscriptions, also made the list, along with "cyberstalking" and "supercut," meaning a video compilation.
Language lovers watch closely for Oxford Dictionaries' periodical release of new additions to the dictionary, and the lists often seem to mark the myriad — if sometimes strange — ways our language is changing. Within about the last six months, the language authority has officially added many new words, among them:
- Bluenoser, a slang term for residents of Nova Scotia
- Tweet, meaning posting on the social media site Twitter
- Crowdsourcing, obtaining information from the masses
- Squee, a sound made in delight
- Twerk, a sexual type of dance
Just as new words flow into our vocabularies and out of our mouths, old words die out at rates that researchers have studied and analyzed.
If someone called another person a wonder-wench, for example, that individual might wonder if they had been insulted, though, in fact, the word once meant "a sweetheart," according to a recent list compiled by Death and Taxes. There's also groak, gobemouche and gelastic, which probably don't mean what you think they do.