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Etymology (Meaning of Words)/The Invention Of Words - Is There A Word For That?

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Question
Why does the media continually "invent" words? Not only has this practice become common over the past several years, but Internet dictionaries are faked with backdated information to agree with the media.

To prove my theory, I purchased a Webster's Unabridged Dictionary from the year of my birth to prove to myself that I'm not nearly as ignorant as the media would have me believe.

The classic example of this practice is "vet". The Internet Webster's indicates that since 1891 the word has meant:

"to evaluate for possible approval or acceptance <vet the candidates for a position>"

This is a lie. The 1959 Webster's unabridged dictionary says "to examine or treat as a veterinarian does". Aside from that usage, it is only used to refer to a veteran.

My newest "media word" (that term is my invention) is vexillology. It does not exist in my 1959 Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, yet online Webster's claims it was used in 1959.

In addition to my purchase of a 1959 Unabridged Dictionary, I also purchased a 1980 Taber's Medical Dictionary which contains no mention of: COPD or Mesothelioma--circa 1899 according to the Internet, but not mentioned in either of my dictionaries.

My other "favorite" is vegan. I found an old dictionary in which it was pronounced VEG-in....like vegetable. Of course now it's pronounced VEE-gan.

Is this movement some sort of an ego thing? Most people and groups are motivated by money, but I see no such gain from this constant frenzy to invent words. Of course the all time fake word winner is paparazzi. At least someone admitted to making that up.

Answer
Dear Jim:

I spent a few hours today at the library, searching through a number of dictionaries:  regular dictionaries, unabridged dictionaries, slang dictionaries, and regional dialect dictionaries.
I will paste in the entries from The Oxford English Dictionary [OED] at the end of this message.  It was the only source I found that extensively covered all of your examples.

Using [or coining] "new words" is one of my pet peeves.  I agree with you that today's media, especially via the internet, are attempting to "back date" words to fit their one needs or agendas.  Sometimes they diminish or destroy good words that have been around for centuries.  In addition to what the media do, politicians are especially at fault.  Politicos also find a favorite phrase and make it meaningless by overusing it.  In a five-minute panel discussion on television, there were three "talking heads" and one moderator.  One of the "experts" used the phrase "at the end of the day" SEVEN times in that brief segment of the show. Because it was a panel, he was not the only one talking.

When I hear anyone on television say, "The fact of the matter is . . . ," I know that the following words will NOT be factual and they will not matter.

My belief -- and I do not profess to be a psychologist -- is that people overuse words and phrases, or they come up with "new" words, or they use words they do not understand because of their own inadequacies.  Because they are not sure of what they are doing or saying, they feel the need to CREATE, and their so-called "creations" are abominable.

Before my retirement, I worked with a librarian who was a computer expert [in her own mind].  She would make explanations that were completely wrong.  She constantly used "computer talk," so that the rest of the staff didn't understand what she was saying.  She was a very insecure person, and her only real performance was in talking about things.  She never got around to doing them.  "The problem will be solved, once I get the X cable in sync with the FIP port and align the protocol formats with  the T-1 transmission."  That's the way she talked.  Gibberish.
In staff meeting one day, she was talking about transferring some material from one format to another.  That's simple enough.  However, she did not use the word "transfer."  She called the procedure "transubstantiation."   I laughed heartily.

Now -- to your specific "favorites" --

The verb "vet" was indeed introduced in English in the year 1891.  However, its meaning had absolutely NOTHING to do with "vetting candidates."  The earliest date I could find in which "vetted" was applied to anything "human" was 1938, and that mention was not in a political sense.  In 1959, there was one cited usage of "vetted" in a political sense.  

Vexillology -- First known use in English was 1959.  Webster's was right on that one.

Mesothelioma -- First known use in English was 1909.  This word was transferred from the scientific/medical field, which used the traditional Latin word.  So, the word may have been used in some circles long before 1909.  The OED records the first known WRITTEN usage in English.  A word or phrase may have existed for many years before anyone actually wrote it down.

Vegan -- the pronunciation varies for this word, accepted into English in 1944.

Finally, the paparazzi!  Signore Paparazzo was a person who actually lived in Italy.  His family were the paparazzi.  The name was used for a literary character in 1901.  Federico Fellini used the name for the photographer in "La Dolce Vita," the 1960 film.  In 1961, Time
Magazine was the first to use "paparazzi" in print.  The translation of the Italian word is "clam."  The opening and closing of a clam shell is supposed to be like the movements of a camera lens.

That's it, Jim.  I have enjoyed this little excursion.  I was greatly surprised about the references to "paparazzi."  I never knew the background of this word.

I cut and pasted from the OED.  I hope this Allexperts "box" will contain all the information.

Happy reading.  And NOW you can rate my work.

Ted Nesbitt

vet
1. trans. To submit (an animal) to examination or treatment by a veterinary surgeon.
1891   ‘A. Thomas’ That Affair II. i. 11   Beau is shaky in his fore legs. I shall have him vetted before the races.
1904   Times 9 Mar. 8/1   Of the 73 stallions..only 39 came back for a second inspection after they had been ‘vetted’.

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3. To examine carefully and critically for deficiencies or errors; spec. to investigate the suitability of (a person) for a post that requires loyalty and trustworthiness.
1904   R. Kipling Traffics & Discov. 270   These are our crowd... They've been vetted, an' we're putting 'em through their paces.
1924   H. A. Vachell Quinney's Adventures 267   Shelagh ‘vetted’ Dolan's brogue, and passed it as sound enough for an Irish-American.
1925   E. F. Norton Fight for Everest: 1924 iii. vi. 338   He should have all equipment..completely ready three or four months before shipment—only thus can everything be properly ‘vetted’ and criticized.
1938   G. Arthur Not Worth Reading viii. 110   The official in Pall Mall..who ‘vetted’ us..swallowed without a gulp some rather mendacious replies as to one's technical knowledge of the various parts of a Canadian boat.
1947   E. Waugh Let. 29 May (1980) 251   The romantic castle was condemned by the architect I sent to vet it, as moribund.
1959   Duke of Bedford Silver-plated Spoon vi. 128   We went through an awful period while Brownie was ‘vetted’ at a series of interviews with relations, each more embarrassing than the last.
1978   G. Greene Human Factor ii. i. 63   HQ had her vetted.
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vexillology
The study of flags.
1959   Arab World (N.Y.) Oct. 13/1   One of the most interesting phases of vexillology—the study of flags—is the important contribution to our heritage of flags by the Arab World.
1961   Flag Bull. Fall 7/2   Editors Grahl and Smith use ‘vexillology’ and its cognates, vexillologist, vexillological.
1966   Occasional Newslet. to Librarians Jan. 4   This unknown specialist has demonstrated his great knowledge of heraldry and vexillology.
1970   W. Smith Flag Bk. U.S. i. 3   In 1965 the first International Congress of Vexillology was held in the Netherlands.
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mesothelioma
Pronunciation:  Brit. /ˌmɛsə(ʊ)θiːlɪˈəʊmə/ , U.S. /ˈˌmɛzoʊˌθiliˈoʊmə/ ; see also meso- comb. form.
Inflections:   Plural mesotheliomas, mesotheliomata.
Etymology:  < mesothelium n. + -oma comb. form, after scientific Latin mesothelioma... (Show More)
Pathol.
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 A malignant tumour of mesothelial origin, associated esp. with exposure to asbestos. In early use also: †any of various tumours believed to be derived from embryonic mesoderm (obs.).
1909   J. G. Adami Princ. Pathol. I. 647   Of mesothelial origin: Tumors (mesotheliomas) whose characteristic constituents are cells derived in direct descent from the persistent mesothelium of the embryo. (a) Typical.—Adenoma of kidney, testicle,..‘mesothelioma’ of pleuræ, peritoneum, etc.
1909   J. G. Adami Princ. Pathol. I. 746   If a convenient term is required for all this order of tumors, the transitional adenocarcinomas of adrenal, kidney, ovary, and testis, we have, from embryogenetic considerations, suggested the term mesothelioma.
1921   Lancet 23 July 173/2   The true nature of these tumours has been the subject of much controversy as is seen by the variety of names given to them—e.g. endothelial cancer,..mesothelioma, and so on.
1966   G. P. Wright & W. S. Symmers Systemic Pathol. I. i. 6/1   Primary tumours of the pericardium..are very rare: most of those that have been described appear to have arisen from mesothelial cells, and may in consequence be termed ‘mesotheliomas’.
1971   Brit. Med. Bull. 27 71/2   Wagner..discovered the first of a large group of pleural and peritoneal tumours—mesotheliomata—apparently related to exposure to crocidolite.
1990   Animals' Agenda Mar. 15/4   Animal tests failed because asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma have latency periods of from 20 to 40 years.
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vegan - pronunciation
 Brit. /ˈviːɡ(ə)n/ , U.S. /ˈviɡən/
Etymology:  < veg- (in vegetable n.) + -an suffix (see quot. 1944 at sense A.... (Show More)
A. n.2
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 A person who abstains from all food of animal origin and avoids the use of animal products in other forms.
1944   D. Watson in Vegan News Nov. 2   ‘Vegetarian’ and ‘Fruitarian’ are already associated with societies that allow the ‘fruits’ of cows and fowls, therefore..we must make a new and appropriate word... I have used the title ‘The Vegan News’. Should we adopt this, our diet will soon become known as the vegan diet, and we should aspire to the rank of vegans.
1955   Irish Press 29 Nov. 618   A true-blue Vegan, I'm assured,..will even exclude from his or her diet, milk and..honey.
1977   J. F. Fixx Compl. Bk. Running xiv. 170   There are..three kinds of vegetarians: the 100 percent vegetarian, sometimes called a vegan; the lacto-vegetarian..; and the lacto-ovo-vegetarian.
1985   Times 1 Feb. 12/2   ‘Beanmilk: milk that's never even seen a cow’ is to vegans, who deplore exploitation of animals and eat nothing derived from them, a highly desirable commodity.
1992   Sat. Night (Toronto) May 22/2   Many are vegans, consuming no animal products whatsoever. They generally wear nothing but cotton, plastic, or synthetics.
2006   M. Pollan Omnivore's Dilemma Introd. 5   Shall I be a carnivore or a vegetarian? And if a vegetarian, a lacto-vegetarian or a vegan?

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paparazzi
Pronunciation:  Brit. /ˌpapəˈratsəʊ/ , U.S. /ˌpɑpəˈrɑtˌsoʊ/
Inflections:   Plural paparazzi, paparazzos.
Forms:  19– paparazo, 19– paparazzo, 19– paparrazo (rare), 19– paparrazzo (rare), 19– ... (Show More)
Etymology:  < Italian paparazzo (1961) < the name of the character Paparazzo , a society photographer in F. Fellini's film La Dolce Vita (1960). See also paparazzi n.
The selection of the name Paparazzo (which occurs as a surname in Italy) for the character in Fellini's film has been variously explained. According to Fellini himself, the name was taken from an opera libretto; the comment is also attributed to him that the word ‘suggests..a buzzing insect, hovering, darting, stinging’. It is also used as the name of a character by G. Gissing in By the Ionian Sea (1901), which appeared in Italian translation in 1957 and has been cited as an inspiration by E. Flaiano, who contributed to the film's scenario. (For further possible expressive connotations of the name, it has also been noted that in the Italian dialect of Abruzzi, where Flaiano came from, paparazzo occurs as a word for a clam, which could be taken as suggesting a metaphor for the opening and closing of a camera lens; the Italian suffix -azzo (variant of -accio < classical Latin -āceus : see -aceous suffix) also has pejorative connotations.)
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Thesaurus »
Categories »
 
 A freelance photographer who pursues celebrities to take photographs of them, usually for sale to popular newspapers and magazines. Chiefly in pl. Also appositive, passing into adj.: that is a paparazzo.
1961   Time 14 Apr. 59/1   Kroscenko..is a paparazzo, one of a ravenous wolf pack of freelance photographers who stalk big names for a living and fire with flash guns at point-blank range.
1961   Time 14 Apr. 59/2   When Katharine Hepburn passed through town recently, the paparazzi mounted Vespa scooters..to waylay her at Fiumicino Airport.
1966   Newsweek 10 Jan. 44/2   A remote chance that gossip columnists or paparazzi will crash the parties in the hotel's private suites.
1972   N.Y. Times 6 July 1   Judge Irving Ben Cooper ruled..that the activities of Ronald E. Galella, the self-styled ‘paparazzo’ photographer, had ‘relentlessly invaded’ the right to privacy of Mrs. Aristotle Onassis.
1986   Today's Computers Mar. 134/1   Your correspondent..had to endure the unwelcome attentions of the paparazzi recently.
1995   Guardian (Nexis) 17 June t34   Even the scummiest paparazzos put their cameras away when I ask them not to take pictures of my kids.
2003   Chattanooga (Tennessee) Times Free Press (Nexis) 31 May e4   He was taken to court for assaulting a paparazzo who had staked out the actor's house for shots of his newborn child  

Etymology (Meaning of Words)

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Ted Nesbitt

Expertise

I have an interest in the meanings of words and phrases, as well as how and when they became part of the English language. I enjoy researching idioms, colloquialisms, dialects, and obscurities of all kinds. I prefer short questions on a particular subject, and I will not accept lengthy research projects or term papers. NOTE: ALLEXPERTS CLAIMS THAT I TRANSLATE FROM ENGLISH TO LATIN AND FROM LATIN TO ENGLISH. I DO NOT. ALLEXPERTS REFUSES TO DELETE THE LATIN-TO-ENGLISH SERVICE -- ONE THAT I DO NOT PROVIDE. TRUST ME ON THIS: ALLEXPERTS IS WRONG. I DO NOT TRANSLATE FROM ENGLISH TO LANGUAGE. LOOK FOR A LANGUAGE EXPERT INSTEAD. ETYMOLOGY AND TRANSLATING SERVICES ARE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT. ALLEXPERTS SHOULD KNOW THAT. ALLEXPERTS DOES NOT KNOW THAT. I HAVE TRIED FOR MANY YEARS TO GET THEM TO CHANGE. THEY WILL NOT. SORRY, BUT I DO NOT TRANSLATE FROM ENGLISH TO LATIN.

Experience

I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public
college. My master's thesis concerns William Faulkner's tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.
I have been a member of the grammar and writing section of Allexperts
for more than a year.



Education/Credentials
Masters degrees in English, philosophy, and library science.

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