God help you if you’ve selfied yourself twerking this year. Doubly so if you can spare any love for the English language.
Both words were in the running for the “Word of the Year,” a dubious race of lame horses run by the historically esteemed Oxford Dictionaries (10 years ago the honored word was “metrosexual” and 20 years back it was the words “information superhighway”). This is a race measured by the online “usage” of words in conversations among people with whom the lexicographers would be loathe to meet.
It says something about linguistics that scholars are chasing crowdsourced resources like 4chan, KnowYourMeme, or even Wikipedia. Words are evolving in the same cesspool that language is struggling to describe. Yet there are so many emotions we feel multiple times each day we spend online that have no correlation in language.
To begin a more enduring lexicon, one must look beyond a Cyrus, a Systrom, or any trend in 2013. We need to look at less transient trends — less noticeable at first, yet constant enough to return to us day after day. There are universal experiences that demand to be coined in common currencies. Here is a first, imperfect stab at a new glossary, inspired by a mock dictionary compiled 140 or so years ago.
Ad*i*cide [AD-eh-syde] n. — 1) The defensive desire to download ad blockers, 2) The rationalization that this would never be necessary if the ads didn’t deserve it. (Archaic: The muting via a TV remote or the repetitive pilgrimage to the refrigerator or toilet when a commercial airs; also, the learned instinct of ignoring ads in a newspaper or magazine.)
Aud*i*o*cide [AWD-ee-oh-syde] n. – The primal instinct to press the mute button, without thought, the moment you detect an autoloading ad streaming against your will.
Click*fail [KLIK-phayl] n. – 1) The spiritual lethargy resulting from realizing that the tantalizing headline or ecommerce deal you just clicked on won’t deliver what it promised; 2) The fleeting, should-have-known-better regret that follows from such a realization.
Click*lust [KLIK-lust] n. – The deep, sub-intellectual urge of content publishers to exploit behavioral economics and A/B testing to induce innocent subjects into clicking on a headline or ecommerce deal, whether it’s of interest to them or not.
Click*schmerz [KLIK-schmayrtz] n. – 1) The weariness that accretes from having clicked on too many spurious links; 2) The questioning, following such weariness, of one’s judgment that can lead to a break, for a brief or lengthy term, of online activity to connect instead with the meatspace (cf.) world.
El*pir*rhea [el-pyrh-RAY-uh] n. – (from Gr. elpo, “hope” + rhoia, “flow”) The impossible, eternal hope that some sentient being wrote a comment on a video or content page that will reveal an insight so sound, it makes scrolling through all the other comments worthwhile. (Archaic: The compulsive pushing of Channel+/Channel- buttons in the undying faith that something worth watching on cable lies just ahead/behind.)
E*mal*aise [ee-muh-LAYZE] n. – 1) The resignation to the reality that solutions like “zero inbox,” serial “email bankruptcy,” or even that perennial vacation autoreply will never fix things; 2) the temporary, hopeful escape into text messaging until you realize that’s probably worse (var., emalice: the moment you say, screw it, and just decide not to reply to an email/text, even though it means being kind of a jerk.).
Hy*per*doubt [HY-purr-dowt] n. – The palpable tension between the trust you have developed with a close friend you’ve known since childhood and the suspicion that the hyperlink they shared will lead you to doubt their intelligence as an adult.
Meat*space [MEET-spayce] n. – 1) The receding world beyond online connections, increasingly inaccessible in a pure state; 2) The world you were born into. (Orig. a term distinguished from “cyberspace,” i.e., what your grandparents called online life. Rel., real life, a term accurate enough until it became less real than reality itself.)
Meme fa*tigue [MEEM fa-TEEG] n. – 1) That horrible, desensitizing moment when one more interstellar discovery, triumph of the human spirit, or, God forbid, adorable cat playing the piano leaves you cold.
Neth*er*friend [NEHTH-uhr-frend] n. – 1) To feel anguish from realizing the worst fears of your hyperdoubt (cf.) were true; 2) To enter an internal debate, often lasting months, of whether to unfriend a repeated offender; 3) To ratchet down, with reluctance, your estimation of human intelligence in general, as well as its odds of survival in an age of cylons.
Par*a*gasm [PAYR-uh-gazm] n. – The joy of discovering a kindred soul on a social network you’ll never see in real life, coupled with the subconscious relief that their manicured personas are shielding you from any unappealing qualities. (Archaic: The ecstatic, transient fusion of your self with a kindred soul in a bar/subway car/15-items-or-less-checkout, enabling the projection of an ideal other, culminating in a “missed connection” post on Craigslist.)
Schad*en*droid [SHAHD-en-droyd] n. – 1) The sinking-stomach sensation when a breakthrough in artificial intelligence makes you wonder whether “2001: A Space Odyssey”/”Battlestar Galactica”/”Terminator”/”Her” wasn’t so crazy after all; 2) The even sinkier suspicion that you’d never survive in such a post-human world.
Share*cost [SHAYR-cosst] n. – The sketchy mental math you find yourself doing when you wonder just how much it’s costing you, in non-monetary terms, to use Google/Facebook/Twitter/Amazon for free when all they ask is that you share the aggregate of your intimate information with them.
You*Lim*bo [YOO-limm-bo] n. – 1) The momentary indecision of how you will spend the next five seconds before you can click on a YouTube ad and make it go away; 2) The dread of not knowing what will happen when you start watching a YouTube video, because the pre-rolls now interrupt the video after a two-second delay.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pandodaily]