My recent explorations of sicko and rhino led me to wonder about other words that end in -o and how they arrived in English. Those words are the subject of my latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, “The Story of -o.” Full access is restricted to subscribers for three months; here’s a taste:
The third season of “unREAL,” the Lifetime drama that’s set behind the scenes at a fictitious dating show called “Everlasting,” premiered last week. The previous two seasons were satires of the long-running not-unreal “reality” show “The Bachelor,” with a single “suitor” choosing from among a bevy of competing women. This season serves up a female protagonist – or, as the characters refer to her, a “suitress.” Played by Caitlin FitzGerald, who also portrayed Libby Masters in “Masters of Sex,” suitress Serena is presented as a Silicon Valley tech billionaire, “the female Elon Musk.”
Caitlin FitzGerald, left, as Serena, unhappily wearing a revealing gown chosen by cast regulars Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer.
But what sort of female, or feminine, is suitress?
On February 22 – the birthday of America’s first president, George Washington – @RealDonaldTrump rose early and poked out a farrago of tweets – seven in all – proffering his theories about guns, schools, and a “GREAT DETERRENT” (his capitalization) to massacres like the one that occurred on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Davis High School in Parkland, Florida. Scattered within those tweets like so much buckshot were three occurrences of the word sicko.
....immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A “gun free” school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!
....If a potential “sicko shooter” knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there...problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!
Collins Dictionary, based in London and Glasgow, got a head start on the WOTY competition in early November, selectingfake news over runners-up such as unicorn, echo chamber, and gig economy. (Related: My November 2016 post on fake.)
Should you spend $1.5 million on a domain? Almost certainly not. As A Hundred Monkeys puts it: “While your emotions should guide you in naming dogs, kids, and boats, they need to take a back seat while you mull over dropping seven figures on a domain.”
The WOTY party has begun, and I’m arriving fashionably (or maybe just breathlessly) late. Back in early November, Allan Metcalf nominated basic for the honor; a couple of weeks later Dennis Baron, aka Dr. Grammar, anointed singular they and Oxford Dictionaries selected an emoji, “Face with Tears of Joy.” Merriam-Webster, which chooses its WOTY based on volume of online lookups, selected -ism. The spoofy Emmett Lee Dickinson Museum (named after “Emily’s third cousin, twice removed – at her request”) has been posting one WOTY candidate every day in December, along with runners-up. (I confess I’d never heard of Dick Poop, but I like it.) And over at the Visual Thesaurus (where I’m a contributing writer), Ben Zimmer has nominated a couple dozen notable words that surfaced this year in science, business, news, and pop culture.
not a peeve or a complaint about overuse or misuse.
Word of the year: Refugee
Most useful: Mx.
Most likely to succeed: Ghosting
Least likely to succeed: Left shark
Euphemism of the year: Netflix and chill
Most creative: Shipping
Most outrageous: Measles party, schlonged (tie – it was an outrageous year!)
Most unnecessary: Microaggression
Most productive: -shaming
Read on for the full WOTY list – 20 words in all – and brief definitions. Words previously featured on this blog are linked to the relevant posts. And follow the American Dialect Society for news of its WOTY vote on January 8.
Prayer-shaming: Criticism of public figures who, after a mass shooting or other tragic event, offer “thoughts and prayers” but do little or nothing to change policy.
Prayer-shaming was popularized by Emma Green, the managing editor of The Atlantic, in an article published online on December 3, one day after a shooting attack in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 people dead as well as the husband-and-wife shooters.