The Obama administration, now very long into a long sixth year, has contributed greatly to our language. Good language must adapt to a changing world and exhibit flexibility. Thus every year we see new words added to our popular dictionary, adopted eagerly by a public heretofore at a loss to explain phenomena rarely observed before. Here are just a few that have been gleaned from what remains of our country’s free press, and my fevered imagination.
Benghazi (ben gah’ zy) v.t. 1. to send unprotected civilians into a dangerous situation and blame the bad results on something that never happened 2. n. shorthand for “What difference does it make?” such as “That’s a Benghazi.”
button (but’ on) n. 1. a disk or knob, when passed through a slot in a piece of cloth serves as a fastening 2. (new) button, reset a brilliant invention (in a box) that allows high government officials the ability to discern the friendly motives of Russians. Presently (2014) inoperative.
fastenfurious (fast’ n few ri us) adj. illegal but conceived by legal authorities, secretive, not to be admitted by anyone.
gruber (groo’ br) v.t. also n. grubering, adj. gruberish 1. to obfuscate or lie about a piece of legislation with the aim of making it more palatable to the uninformed or stupid 2. to boast of pulling the wool over the eyes of any person or group, especially in a professorial manner.
loislerner (lo’ is lern er) v.t. 1. to use a federal agency’s power to deny rights to an unfavored political party or group, as in “We’ve been loislernered” 2. adj. a haughty and disdainful attitude toward any probing questioner.
secretary (sek’ ret ary) n. 1. a person who takes dictation, keeps records, etc. 2. (new) a high government official, head of cabinet-level department, who dislikes taking dictation from a micromanaging president, viz. last three secretaries of defense in Obama administration.
As the years pass some words are lost or lose their original meaning, taking on another. The words “gay” and “cool” come to mind. Here are a couple that, in 2014, seem to fit that category:
debt ceiling (det seel’ ing) n. a quaint custom of the United States Congress wherein the amount of money the government can borrow is limited to a certain figure. This is a yearly ritual in which that amount is routinely increased to unimaginable levels despite the best efforts of madcap extremist tea-party representatives to shut down the government. The term is now obsolete and should be abandoned.
constitution (kon sti too’ shun) n. 1. in the United States, a tattered old document written more than two centuries ago by a bunch of rich white guys wearing powdered wigs, much of it spelling out the separation of governmental powers and the limits of their reach over the individual citizen. Now becoming obsolete. To be interpreted as whatever the president wants. 2. n. in England the constitution is unwritten but observed, unlike in the U.S. where it is written but not observed.
Each year, as we close out our list of new words added to the language we try to anticipate at least one or two of the next year’s batch. Here’s one which may not make it in 2015 but, in our view, will make the list soon enough:
gore (gor) v.t.1. (old def., of an animal) to pierce with horns or tusks 2. (new def.) to incite panic or hysteria with dire predictions over 20 years or more, none of which has come true and probably never will 3. (new) n. the mess that’s left behind when government takes drastic action to fix a nonexistent problem.
Whatever 2015 shall bring our way, your language observer will be alert to bring you up to speed on the latest linguistic developments. Season’s greetings.
Alan Boone is a retired physician living in Bangor.