10 hot words for 2010

Every year a slew of new words – Anglicisms, for the most part – emerge and enrich – or contaminate, depending on how you look at it – the Italian language. With its marked penchant for neologisms, the press then willingly takes over and spreads the word(s). Italian linguist Linda Rossi Holden looks at 10 such Anglicisms that might osmose into Italian in 2010.

Published on 14 January 2010 at 14:48
When Big Ben meets the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Photomontage : Auge Blicke/ Flickr, Presseurop

The Italian language is highly permeable, as you can tell from the press and the other media. Indeed, owing to ongoing linguistic infiltration, it has become something of a hybrid tongue that proves hard to comprehend if the meaning of any given sentence hinges on an unfamiliar borrowing from a foreign language. So it would make sense to ask what novelties lie in store for the world of communication in 2010. Without attempting anything like an exhaustive list, I have culled 10 newfangled Anglo-Americanisms which, given their resonance in a couple key sectors, could gain currency in Italian this year.

1) Duppie. Derived from the household acronym yuppie for "young urban professional" or “young upwardly-mobile professional”. 20 years down the road, many a money-obsessed careerist yuppie has become a duppie, or "depressed urban professional": i.e. he has lost his swanky high-paid job and, to make ends meet, he has to accept offers of temporary, often underpaid work that he would have rejected out of hand back in the good old days.

2) Frugal fatigue. This syndrome afflicts consumers who, after months of recession-driven belt-tightening and penny-pinching, can no longer stand to see their empty wallets and mounting bank debts.

3) Warmist. One who blames mankind for the indiscriminate air pollution, especially carbon dioxide emissions, that aggravates the greenhouse effect and thereby triggers the inexorable process of global warming. A sceptic, or denier, on the other hand, whether or not he has any expertise in climatology, believes there is no urgent need to take action to slow the pace of global warming.

4) Meformer. A blogger or social network (especially Twitter) user who posts musings on his or her personal life, thoughts and feelings. These internauts, more often than not of the female persuasion, misuse social networks to talk about themselves (meform) rather than to inform others.

5) Pop-up store. A shop that is set up on a vacant site and closes shortly thereafter. It usually sells seasonal merchandise: ice cream at summer vacation spots, toys at Yuletide. The key to the success of pop-up stores is that they satisfy consumer demand whilst keeping overhead expenses to a bare minimum.

6) Staging. In the throes of the current real estate crisis, sellers often have to refurbish (stage) their property to enhance its appeal and win over prospective buyers: repaint the walls, redecorate the rooms, revamp the garden and so on.

7) Sexting. A portmanteau of "sex" and "texting", sexting means sending pornographic messages and images by mobile phone. The content usually consists of photographs exchanged by adolescents as a forbidden game. But sexting is also used by adults to share pedophilic porn.

8) Pre-gaming (or pre-partying). This expression connotes the habit of priming oneself for a night out by imbibing all manner of alcoholic beverages beforehand. Instead of splashing out on expensive cocktails, plenty of teenagers down whole bottles of cheap wine or beer so as to be semi-sloshed before heading out to party.

9) Nontroversy. A pseudo-polemic contrived to divert public attention from an important matter to a seemingly more topical story. This trend chiefly concerns the political establishment, which instrumentalises the press for its diversionary tactics.

10) Blamestorming. Unlike brainstorming, with its positive connotations, this portmanteau neologism refers to meetings at work where the conferees look for someone to pin the blame on for contractual or financial failures.

Every year, the American Dialect Society, an organisation that closely monitors linguistic changes, chooses a Word of the Year that ensures worldwide exposure – and, no doubt, global currency. For 2009, it was "Tweet". Not that Twitter lacks worldwide exposure...

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