COMMENT: The English language could use new musical terms, says Alan Cross – National

The English language has been evolving for centuries. Every year new words are added while obsolete words fall out of common usage.

For example, the Oxford English Dictionary, the ultimate arbiter of words with its 20 printed volumes and 21,739 pages, said at the end of 2020 that adult – “to become, be or behave like an adult; (now) sp. to accomplish the mundane or everyday tasks that are an integral part of adult life” — is now officially part of the everyday lexicon.

On the other hand, while it’s still in the OED, when was the last time you used bawl in a sentence? (Brabble: Bickering loudly about trifles or nothing at all.)


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As a writer, I love words and the power they have. I’m always looking for ways to expand my vocabulary. For example, I recently came across poppy, which describes a person who thinks too highly of themselves. So there is growl, which consists of silently staring at someone who is eating, hoping that they will offer you some. If you look long enough, you might get a tittynope (a small amount of something left over.) Type this into Microsoft Word and you’ll get a very angry red line.

Other languages ​​are much more expansive than English. German, for example, has over 5.3 million words, thanks to its ability to simply add syllable after syllable to root words. My new favorite German word is Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz, which describes the anxiety and concern caused by Donald Trump. And the next time you try to stifle your feelings by eating, note that you are bound to see kummerspeck (literally “grief bacon”), which is the weight you will inevitably gain.

At the risk of being pocketmuchka (Russian for a person who asks too many questions), English can suffer from esculhambação (Brazilian Portuguese describing a mess because of organizational incompetence) As for the words, we need some musical situations.

Click to play the video:

Oxford Dictionaries breaks with tradition with the choice of the word of the year 2020

Oxford Dictionaries breaks tradition with the choice of the word of the year 2020 – November 23, 2020

A little over a year ago, a woman named Susan wrote to me with a problem. “Is there a word for the feeling of immense disappointment that occurs when you turn on your radio and only catch the last bars of one of your favorite songs, which you hoped to hear because you love it so much and you realized you just missed this?” I could not find such a word in any language. Again, my German is a little rusty.

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Or maybe we just need to invent something ourselves. I did such a thing about 15 years ago while working on one of my Continuing History of New Music shows that dealt with the origin of band names. What do you call such a study?

The study of words is called etymology. If you study the origin of names, it is called onomastic. Exploring the origins of place names is toponymy. And if you want to find out the origin of people’s names, you are engaged in anthroponomastic. But the origin of the names of musical groups? There was no such word for this area of mateotechnics (an unprofitable science).

It was unacceptable. Many books have been written about how bands got their name. How could this discipline itself be nameless? I decided to consult real onomasticians.

The first call went to Sheila Embleton, a linguistics professor at York University. She was part of a panel of wise colleagues around the planet, including Mark Hershon. His team in California specializes in creating brand names. Do you have a BlackBerry, use OnStar or have Febreze in the closet? All of these terms came from Mark’s people.

After a few conference calls, these word connoisseurs came back with their discoveries. No, this word did not exist in English, but they had found a solution. Academic research on the origin of band names (or names adopted for professional music purchases) will be known as bandomynology.

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Here are some examples. Where does the name Black Sabbath come from? The members of a band from Birmingham called Earth needed a name change. Across the street was a movie theater showing Boris Karloff’s 1963 film Black Sabbath Bingo. Foo Fighters is derived from WWII fighter pilots who were scrambled to defend against mysterious UFOs that appeared as balls of fire – fire in French – and were therefore nicknamed Foo Fighters. Green Day takes its name from a day of doing nothing but smoking pot. We just did bandomynology.

I immediately started using the word on the radio and in print, hoping to make it a real term. It’s now in the Urban Dictionary but alas didn’t make the latest edition of the OED in 2011. And there’s no Wikipedia entry other than its appearance in the article for The story continues with new music.

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It would be a big help if you started using the word yourself, especially if you’re some sort of writer or scholar. And if you’re so inclined to create a Wikipedia entry, I’d be eternally grateful (It’s bad form to create a self-service Wiki entry, so I can’t really do it myself.)

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There is a precedent for this. In the middle of the 20th century, the German word oh wurm turned into earworm, that is, when a song gets stuck in your head, playing over and over. It started to catch on after it appeared in a 1978 novel by Desmond Bagley titled Fly awaywhere the author refers to the German origins of the word.

And there is worldgreen, which is what happens when you hear or misinterpret the lyrics of a song. Think “Cuse Me While I Kiss This Guy” by Jimi Hendrix purple mist. Credit American writer Sylvia Wright for coming up with that one in 1954 when, as a young girl, she confessed to hearing a Scottish lyric that ‘laid her on the green’ as ‘Lady Mondegreen’.

I hope all this did not create verschlimmbesserung (German: an attempt to make things better but instead everything got worse) with all of this. I really strive for lagom (Swedish: to do things correct right.) If that doesn’t work, well shouganai (Japanese for, uh, that will be will be.)

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Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music Podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play

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