MIDWAY: ‘Preneed’ words

It’s an old trick, but a predictably fascinating one: the Collins dictionary, in its latest edition, has released a list of new entrants into the linguistic fold. Of course, they’re not brand new words exactly; rather, they’re words that have been flung at the proverbial brick wall so often over the last 10 years or so that they’ve stuck. At which point they start to tell us a bit about ourselves.

Because the vlog (an internet video journal), the blook (a blog that becomes a book, or vice versa) and the mobcast (an unholy alliance of podcast and mobile phone) are mounting such a determined challenge on the lamestream (traditional media), advances in information techonology provide a good chunk of the list. So far, so unsurprising. The climate change industry, too, is staking its claim in the new vocabulary. We now live in a world where people are climate canaries, and their ill-health, combined with season creep (bluebells in January, anyone?) indicates troubling times ahead.

We are concerned with war (waterboarding, in these paranoid days, is not a new sport, but a form of torture), and display a disturbing creativity when it comes to body fascism, usually directed at women, or women of a particular class. So camel toe (“the visual effect created when a woman’s trousers cling too tightly, emphasising the shape of the...” eh, you know what) is followed by cankle (“a thickened area between the calf and ankle in an overweight person, obscuring where one ends and the other begins”), and you might bump into a tanorexic person (“obsessed with maintaining a permanent deep tan”) with a muffin top (“a roll of flesh spilling over the top of a tight skirt or trousers”) in the local market.

Some words are indeed lovely additions - I’m particularly fond of whataboutery (“the practice of repeatedly blaming the other side”), and silver, which enters as a verb, meaning “to age”.

Others, meanwhile, just make you totally despair. Has it really been necessary to cultivate masstige (“the impression of exclusivity in goods that are affordable for many”)?

Or preneed (“arranged or made available in advance of eventual requirements: preneed funeral arrangements”)? Now that’s a barbecue-stopper.