Crazy English: On Being “Frenemies” With Neologisms

Welcome to the framily_Misfortune of Knowing

The 5th edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary has added 5,000 words, including “chillax,” “selfie,” and “frenemy,” a move that recognizes the evolving nature of the English language (and probably gives younger players an edge!).

According to Merriam-Webster, a “frenemy” is someone “who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy.”

That would describe my husband’s perspective on neologisms, new words entering the English language. On the surface, he’s fairly progressive about language—he has no qualms about starting sentences with conjunctions or separating sentences with only one space after the period—but he’s skeptical of new words.

As he says:

I love obscure English words and untranslatable words from other languages. Bring on the tsundoku, the backpfeifengesicht, the hygge, the mamihlapinatapei, because each represents a distinct concept that requires a sentence to explain. That’s the same standard I apply to English neologisms. For example, frenemy, a word that goes back almost to World War II, has a complicated, subtle meaning that varies by context.

Cremains? Blawg? Framily? Friendtor? To pretend these words advance the English language is redonkulous.

Sprint’s “framily plan” ad campaign really annoys him. “We don’t need that word,” he insists each and every time he hears the commercial. “It’s a failed portmanteau. They crammed together ‘friends’ and ‘family,’ but your ‘framily plan’ will never include all of your friends and family, unless you can count them on your hands, because you can’t add more than 10 people.” He adds, “They should have called it ‘the decahedron’.”

He really could go on and on about it, but I’ll spare you. 😉

The wisdom of using such an unappealing “word” in advertisements is questionable, but who knows, maybe we’ll welcome it into our language “framily” someday. Stranger things have happened in the English language. Literally.

28 thoughts on “Crazy English: On Being “Frenemies” With Neologisms

  1. April @ The Steadfast Reader

    I have a love/hate relationship with the evolution of English. On one hand – text speak drives me nuts. Is it so hard to type out the two extra letters to spell ‘You’ instead of ‘U’? On the other hand I find ‘blawg’ to be clever. I guess some of it is a matter of interest and taste. 🙂 (Oh, and I can’t help myself using the emoticons when writing informally outside of a professional setting.)

  2. Such a good post. I took a history of the English language course and everyone cringed at these new words and “text speak”. But, we also could appreciate how alive our language is. Trying to impede its growth would be impossible and probably detrimental. I eventually came to the conclusion that if you don’t like a word- don’t use it and maybe others will join you and it will die out (hopefully). It’s crazy what some scholars in the past have tried to do to regulate language. Jonathan Swift tried purifying the language in his day by condoning new words like “banter” “sham” “cutting” etc. He also didn’t like the clipping of words like “incog” for “incognito” and a few others. He disliked those words as much as I dislike “totes adorbs”. It seems to be a normal trend 🙂

    1. Your history of the English language class sounds like it was a lot of fun! It’s interesting to think about the words we use today and how so much of our language was slang at one time.

      As for “totes adorbs,” do people really say that verbally or is it usually used in writing as a shortened spelling? I’ve heard of it before in discussions like this one (or in commercials making fun of it), but I’ve never heard it in “the wild.”

      1. I can tell you from personal experience that thirteen-year-old girls really say “totes adorbs.” It seems to be a sincere, though very casual, term of approval, uttered in a suitably casual tone. Ever heard “totes magotes?” Not sure about the spelling on that one, I’ve only ever heard it.

      2. It was a lot of fun! I have not heard anyone use “totes adorbs” seriously, but the fact that it exists (while amusing) is somewhat scary. Hopefully it is not too rampant in “the wild” 😉

  3. I think this penchant for combining words has seeped into my brain in an unattractive way. I constantly think of my sister in law as my “Slaw” which is TERRIBLE because I really really hate coleslaw with a firey passion, and I’m rather fond of Jenny…

    1. Actually, I think “slaw” is pretty cute! As for coleslaw, there are so many varieties out there. Maybe you just haven’t met the “right” coleslaw yet!

    2. April @ The Steadfast Reader

      Funny, Katie! That’s how I referred to my law school – because the university was St. Louis University (SLU = Sloo) and obviously I was in law school = SLAW 🙂

  4. Some of the words that have made it off the internet and into dictionaries drive me up a wall. Seriously: totes? One of the stupidest words I’ve ever heard. “Totally” already exists and functions quite nicely. I realize language is dynamic, always changing, but it shouldn’t be modified for the sake of modification. I will never use totes in a book. Not even if there’s a teenager in it. 😉

    1. I’ve never heard “totes” actually used in real life. Do people really say that? I imagine I’ll have more exposure to these types of words when my kids are teenagers!

  5. Language evolves over time. I think it’s a natural process. I admit though that, to my ears, some of the newer editions do sound off and funny–and I wonder what anyone was thinking. I agree with your husband about “framily”, but the way.

  6. I don’t mind new words (well, some of them. I HATE ‘selfie’, probably the idea more than the word itself), but I love old words even more. I’m not a language purist and I think evolution is generally a healthy thing that signals that a language is alive and kicking, but the historian in me can’t help but appreciate the beauty of an old, obscure word;

  7. I sort of disagree with Kat. We don’t want to end up like France where the Academie has to authorise everything. English is a hugely vibrant, living language. We can’t ignore ‘street talk’ once it’s become accepted speech.

    In the UK we used to have a quiz show called ‘Call My Bluff’ – not sure if you had this too? It consisted of taking words which appeared in the OED but which few people had ever heard of. Each team used to suggest three definitions and the other team had to choose the correct one.

    I admire how the US has taken and simplified many English words (e.g. aluminum) and inserted a ‘z’ instead of a ‘s’ when it sounds right 🙂

    1. I have a similar view of language, though some of these new words are just grating. However, as Beth (Too Fond) says in her comment, I’m not sure if it’s the word or the concept (like “selfie”).

  8. Reblogged this on Kat Webber and commented:
    I personally detest the fact that Webster is adding such ridiculous words to the English language. Slang is slang, that doesn’t make it a real word. It depresses me how quickly the English language is devolving into something completely unrecognizable. No wonder our kids don’t speak with proper syntax or grammar.

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