Like so many of us that have been following the latest political scandals, such as that involving Anthony Weiner’s twitter escapades and resignation, I have been amused at how quickly a new word can make it into our English language. One of the recent AP news headline read: “Weiner to resign over sexting scandal.”
To the best of my knowledge, I have never seen “sexting” used in a news headline before, and yet, a pretty respected journalism outlet has used it in a title of a story. The joint combination of two known words is a great way to build a new word, should the opportunity arise where a new term is warranted. In this case, I would say that it was warranted, and the inclusion of this term was indeed appropriate, and highly descriptive. We all know what they are talking about!
Upon reflection, I would propose that the fluidity and strength of the English language is greatly helped by the fact that it is entirely acceptable to create a new word, based on the writer’s own perspective. If the market fails to recognize the word or doesn’t understand what it means, the simple consequence is that the term won’t be repeated, fading away into obscurity. No harm, no foul.
Interestingly, the French view their vocabulary differently, with a strict process for when a new French word is “approved” for general use, ultimately by the French Minister of Culture. With the recent explosion of IT related terms and technologies, the French “word police” have been quite busy. According to an article posted in the Wall Street Journal, before a word such as “cloud computing” (“informatique en nuage”) or “podcasting” (“diffusion pour baladeur”) receives a certified French equivalent, it needs to be approved by three organizations and get a government minister’s seal of approval, according to rules laid out by the state’s General Delegation for the French Language and the Languages of France. The process can take years!
Imagine if the same set of rigid rules existed here in the United States. I think our IT industry would be at a loss for words as to what we do. One might even argue that our innovation might even be curtailed, at least with regards to how we talk about new products or services. One thing for certain, those of us tasked with marketing communications or business plan writing would be in for a real challenge when talking about a new start up offering a new service.
Fortunately, it is still the “wild west” in America, at least with regards to coining a new word. And, with all the social media outlets today, the opportunity for a new word to be recognized and go viral is pretty good … so feel free to express yourself how you like, without worry that you will be found guilty by a Minister of Culture, at least for all of us living in the land of free speech and writing!
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.