Tag Archives: Adjective

Just what is a fangle? And why can it be only new?

14 Apr

I used the word ‘newfangled’ in conversation today.  It’s not a word I utter every day – but this headline from the Daily Telegraph caused the word to slip out my mouth.

Obviously for Telegraph readers, texting is relatively newfangled technology as the paper felt the need to make texting its headline today, in April 2011.   I did briefly wonder whether I’d travelled back in time to April 2001, when texting would have been sufficiently cutting-edge to make the front page of a national newspaper, but sadly my wrinkles and my waistline assured me it was indeed 2011.

But it got me thinking – why do we say ‘newfangled’?  We don’t ‘fangle’ anything.  We don’t even talk about ‘oldfangled’ (although as of today, I’m going to try and slip that into conversation).

The OED offers a wealth of fangles – newfangled (both adjective and noun), newfangled (verb), newfangled (adjective), newfangledness (noun), newfanglement (noun), newfangleness (noun), newfanglist (noun) and newfangly (adverb).

But it’s not just the sheer array of fangles that’s surprising – it’s the ages of them.  If you’d asked me where I thought ‘newfangled’ came from, I’d have said it sounded like the sort of word made up for an American Presidential election about 100 years ago.

I am completely wrong.  The OED records its first usage of newfangled in – get this – in 1300.

If þi loverd is neufangel, Ne be þou nout forþi outgangel Mid illore iwon.

In the 14th century, it also appears in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Gower’s Confession Amantis, which I was made to study for a whole term at university and still came out none the wiser!

The OED seems a little unclear on the etymology.  The ‘fang’ bit it gives as an obsolete meaning of ‘to grasp hold of’, and the ‘new’ bit tells you how modern the thing is of which you’re grasping hold.

The word is compared to the Middle Dutch – nieuvingel – or even more excitingly, the Faroese fangla, which means to catch hold of.  I can honestly say I’ve never come across a word in English that derives from Faroese,  and am quite sadly excited!

We used to use ‘newfangled’ to refer to the person who loved the latest fashion, but we now use it to mean ‘new’ or ‘the latest thing’.

I’ve also discovered that I’m not the first to coin ‘oldfangled’ – someone beat me to that by 214 years as it first appears in 1797!  The OED gives the delightful definition of ‘oldfangled’ as meaning: ‘characterized by adherence to what is old, old-fashioned.’

And fangle does also exist – although the dictionary suggests it is effectively a mistake.  Peoplewere used to ‘newfangled’ – so assumed there must be a ‘fangle’ to be new.  Fangled came to mean newly fashioned and a fangle a fad, although this mean seems to have died out of usage.  The latest usage is in 1881: “New fashions and fangles of dress, of manners, and of speech.”

For a word that’s 700 years young, ‘newfangled’ still speaks to human behaviour and the love of the latest.  But is the word sufficient on its own anymore?  Should we now be talking about ‘techfangled’ or even Applefangled?

Are verbs the English language’s avant-garde? On ‘verbising’ English

31 Mar

 

I read this great article on TechCrunch about “The 6 Verbs For The Next 20 Years Of The Connected World” – and it really got me thinking about verbs in general.

Are verbs the avant-garde of English?  Do we use verbs to push the boundaries of language?  Are verbs ‘early adopters’ of language change – and other parts of speech mere fast followers?

The reason I say this is that it seems to me that the trend of recent years is ‘verbisation’ – taking a perfectly good word, particularly a noun, and making it into a verb.

Just like the brand ‘Hoover’ has come to stand for any vacuum cleaner, and indeed the act of vacumning, we’ve seen Google and Facebook move from noun to verb – ‘Google it’ or ‘Facebook me’.   Google’s also achieved the same ubiquity as Hoover in that it just means looking something up on t’internet.

Here are a couple of other ‘verbisations’ that have crossed my path recently!  Or should that be ‘path-crossed’ me?

  • ‘Sunset’ – I’ve heard this used as a verb, carrying the meaning of ‘retire’.  ‘It’s about time we sunsetted that infrastructure’.
  • ‘Demise’ – I’m most familiar with ‘demise’ as a noun – ‘the demise of the Roman empire’ – but I’m increasingly hearing it used as a verb, with a similar meaning to ‘sunset’ above.  I did look this up – and to be fair, ‘demise’ actually appeared in English first as a verb, with the noun coming later.   As a verb, ‘demise’ has a meaning in legal circles – to give or transfer an estate by a will or a lease – so the modern usage of ‘demise’ as ‘retire’ is quite different.
  • ‘Forward’ – I’m used to this in the sense of forwarding a letter or an e-mail, but only today, I heard it used on the radio in the sense of ‘progress’: “We need to forward this project urgently”!  I was half-asleep in bed at the time, and was so surprised at this usage, I sat up!
  • ‘Onboard’ – I hate this word, but I have to admit it’s quite useful!  In my line of work, I understand ‘onboarding’ to be the process of inducting and training a new employee, or setting up a new customer on the system.  “We’ll start to onboard Mark next week” – and there’s no ship in sight!
  • ‘Gift aid’ – we have this great scheme in the UK called ‘Gift Aid’ that, with the donor’s permission, allows charities to write off the basic tax they might otherwise have to pay on a donation. So when making a donation recently, I was recently asked if I wanted to ‘gift aid’ it!
  • Sky Plus – in our house, we quite regularly say something along the lines of ‘I’ve Sky Plussed it’, meaning I’ve recorded it off the TV!

There are lots of people who’ll tell you this ‘verbisation’ is terrible , disgusting, and bad English.  But for me, this is exactly what I love about language – it allows us to play.   It’s like being set free in Legoland – all the building bricks you’ll ever want, and the opportunity to create anything with them.

And what could be more fun than that?  Or, in the spirit of this article, funner?

No? Me either. Answers to the youth slang quiz.

17 Mar

Wa’gwan?  (question)    What’s happening?

Tonk (adjective)            Muscular

Choong (adjective)        Gorgeous

Brap (onomatopoeic word)        Celebratory noise

Brare (noun)                  Friend

Slippin (adjective)         Up to no good

Wack (adjective)            Rubbish

Blad (noun)                   Friend

Par (verb, I think)           Get one up on someone

Wasteman (noun)          Layabout

Allow it (verb)               Ignore it

Owned (verb)                Made a fool of

Merked (verb)               Merked

Beef (noun)                   Dispute

Giving me jokes (verb) Making me laugh

Airing (verb)                 Ignoring

Bedrin (noun)                Friends

Bless (verb)                  Honour something

Boi (noun)                     Young man

KMT (expression starting with a verb)     Kiss my teeth

Bustin (verb)                 To do something

Chirps (verb)                Chat up

Cotch (verb)                  Relax at home

Fam (noun)                   Close friend

Crunk (adjective)           Very drunk

Dark (adjective)             Bad but can mean good

Deep (adjective)            Good but can mean bad

Endz (noun)                  Where you live

I wonder if ‘airing‘ comes from the gesture of putting one’s nose in the air to ignore someone.  ‘Cotch‘ is also interesting as it’s very close to the Welsh ‘cwtch’, which means a ‘safe place’, but also to ‘cuddle up to someone’.  And ‘beef‘ to mean ‘complaint’ isn’t exactly new – according to the OED, people have been using ‘beef’ to mean complain since 1888 and to mean complaint since 1900.  So perhaps today’s teenagers wouldn’t be too impressed to learn they’re speaking the lingo of their great-grandparents!

Quick quiz: Can you speak like a teenager?

13 Mar

I thought I’d share some slang words I found in an interview with Grace Dent, a British author who specialises in novels for and about teenagers.

I have to be honest that I don’t really know any teenagers any more (I’m sure I’ll know loads in about 10 years when all the children I do know grow up a bit more) – but I like to think myself still young in mind, if not quite in body.

Sadly, this list of words brought me down with a bump!    The only word I did know (which I’ve censored from the list) was one I’d learned from Grey’s Anatomy!

See if you can guess what any of the following mean.  I’ve removed all the rude words, so you’re safe – and I’ve added what part of speech they are, just in case that helps.

Wa’gwan?  (question)

Tonk (adjective)

Choong (adjective)

Brap (onomatopoeic word)

Brare (noun)

Slippin (adjective)

Wack (adjective)

Blad (noun)

Par (verb, I think)

Wasteman (noun)

Allow it (verb)

Owned (verb)

Merked (verb)

Beef (noun)

Giving me jokes (verb)

Airing (verb)

Bedrin (noun)

Bless (verb)

Boi (noun)

KMT (expression starting with a verb)

Bustin (verb)

Chirps (verb)

Cotch (verb)

Fam (noun)

Crunk (adjective)

Dark (adjective)

Deep (adjective)

Endz (noun)

I’ll post the answers later this week.  Good luck!