Today is the anniversary of the introduction of Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart. The first number one song on the chart was Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool.”
Prior to August 4, 1958, Billboard had separate charts for Most Played By Jockeys, Best Sellers in Stores, and Most Played in Juke Boxes. The new Hot 100 list combined the Best Sellers and the Most Played By Jockeys lists into a single chart. Because Jukeboxes were becoming less popular, their numbers were not included (1).
The linguistic equivalent of Billboard’s Hot 100 would have to be Word Spy’s Top 100 Words . Created by technical writer Paul McFedries, Word Spy is a website devoted to neologisms. Neologisms are new words — words that have appeared in print multiple times, but that are not in the dictionary.
Word Spy gives the armchair linguist a peek behind the lexical curtain. Visiting this web site is a little like watching a preseason football practice: you get to see all the players (words) on the field, but you’re not sure which ones will make the final cut. In the case of neologisms, the final cut is making it into the dictionary. The lexicographers at the Oxford English Dictionary do their work behind the scenes, and most neologisms have the life span of the common house fly. In contrast, Word Spy makes lexicography democratic: you get to see all the words, it’s free, and McFedries even accepts reader submissions.
Here are a couple of examples for neologisms from Word Spy:
aireoke (air.ee.OH.kee) n. Playing air guitar and singing to prerecorded music; playing air guitar in a public performance. Also: air-eoke. [Blend of air guitar and karaoke.]
Manilow method n. The discouragement of loitering in public places by broadcasting music that is offensive to young people, particularly the songs of singer Barry Manilow.
In addition to words and definitions, Word Spy also provides pronunciations, citations, and notes on each word. WARNING: Reading this site can become addictive! (2)
Brave New Words
See if you can match up the 8 neologisms from Word Spy with the 8 definitions numbered below.
Drink the Kool-Aid
male answer syndrome
- n. A person or attitude that opposes all real estate development or other projects that would harm the environment or reduce property values.
- n. A hairstyle in which a strip of hair across the top of the head is longer and higher than the hair on the remainder of the head.
- n. A person, usually a vegan, who consumes only food that is obtained by foraging, most often in the garbage of restaurants, grocery stores, and other retailers.
- v. To become a firm believer in something; to accept an argument or philosophy wholeheartedly or blindly.
- n. Setting up a large number of Web pages with links that point to a specific Web site so that the site will appear near the top of a Google search when users enter the link text.
- n. The tendency for some men to answer a question even when they don’t know the answer.
- n. A word game played during corporate meetings. Players are issued bingo-like cards with lists of buzzwords such as paradigm and proactive. Players check off these words as they come up in the meeting, and the first to fill in a “line” of words is the winner.
- pp. Podcasting an audio feed with a religious message (2).
Today’s Challenge: One Hundred on One
What is your favorite word? What makes your word so interesting, distinctive, and special? Brainstorm a list of your favorite words. Select the single word you would rate as your favorite, and write 100 words on why your word is so special and what specifically makes it your favorite. Do a bit of research to get some details on the etymology or history of your word so that you can give your reader some details that go beyond just the obvious. (Common Core Writing 1)
Quotation of the Day: The genius of democracies is seen not only in the great number of new words introduced but even more in the new ideas they express. –Alexis de Tocqueville
Answers: 1. NOPE: (Not On Planet Earth) 2. fauxhawk 3. freegan 4. Drink the Kool-Aid 5. Google bombing 6. male answer syndrome 7. buzzword bingo 8. godcasting