It happened to me for the first time a few weeks ago. (I know what you’re thinking but no, I did not properly give directions to someone in New York. That kind of thing takes time.) While going through my email, I stumbled upon one from a previous boss who kicked off our correspondence with a word that I don’t typically see in professional correspondences: “Yo.” The term seemed unfamiliar but in a pleasant way, like accidentally running into a close friend in another country or seeing a turtle in a Kentucky Derby lineup. The word’s increasing popularity in recent years (there’s even an app whose sole purpose is to send “yo” notifications to your phone), demonstrates the significance of “fake” words in our society, including a couple of my personal favorites:
Y’all is only one of the many gifts the South has bestowed on this country over the years. (Other gifts include fried Oreos, rodeos, and Luke Bryan.) It’s the fastest and friendliest way to address a group and, most importantly, it provides the speaker the opportunity to slip into a southern drawl at any moment. No other word is so distinctly American than y’all and for that, I hope it never fades from our vocabulary. It also brings to mind images of John Wayne tipping a cowboy hat, so that’s also a plus.
Though it’s true that “aight” will never replace “all right” (if only because Matthew McConaughey would be lost without his famous catchphrase), that doesn’t mean it should be ruled out of the English language entirely. Aight puts a fun spin on the regular “alright” response and saves us an extra millisecond by mashing “all” and “right” together. If only we could extend this rule to other sayings. We could be saying “thwelcome” and “nanks” for “you’re welcome” and “no thanks” and preserving two precious seconds every day.
While “aight” was busy mixing words together, “sup” took it a step further by turning “what’s up” into “whassup” then cutting the word in half. Anyone looking to make Orwell’s “newspeak” a reality need look no further than our generation’s teenagers for recruits because they seem to cut language down like nobody’s business. That’s not to say “sup” is bad. In fact, I even included “sup” in the opening of my AIM buddy profile back in middle school so, historically, it’s always been a pretty worthy term in my book.
One of many words coined by The Simpsons, meh is used to describe a feeling of boredom or indifference and is usually accompanied by a slight shoulder shrug and look of disinterest. Switch out the “m” with a “bl” and you get a completely new word, bleh, which takes the original and provides the original with an added sense of “ugh.” (See number 6 for more information.)
Taken from the depths of sub-Reddits and internet forums, “newb” describes someone who is inexperienced (or, “a newbie”) at a certain task. It’s a more casual way of saying “amateur” or “do you have any idea what you’re doing” and thus, earns a spot in my list of irreplaceable words. You may not think you need it now but just wait until your toddler falls trying to take his first steps. You’ll be thanking me for introducing this Internet slang word into your life. (“Can’t even take two steps? What a newb.”)
Can’t go to a concert because you didn’t finish your final essay in time? Ugh. Can’t have dessert because you ate too much for dinner? Ugh. Can’t marry James McAvoy because he’s married and also, an A-list celebrity with bodyguards that refuse to let you within five feet of him? Ugh. Those three letters summarize all sorts of misery, ranging from minor nuisances to life-shattering obstacles. And, with only three characters, it’s Twitter-friendly. What else could you possibly ask for?
Those are a handful of my favorite “fake” words but I couldn’t possibly have covered them all. What words could you not live without?
Featured image via CoolWaves.org.