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Keeping up with the latest buzzwords

A challenge for today’s communicators is to keep pace with the new lingo that seemingly pops up out of nowhere. If we’re not paying attention, a whole new vocabulary appears overnight.

We can choose to ignore all of this and simply stick to the AP Stylebook and our handy Webster’s Dictionary, or we can go “whole hog” and pepper these buzzwords through our own communications. But even if we choose to stay with the tried and true, it pays to acquire an understanding of the more common terms since they have a nasty habit of migrating beyond their borders and popping up in places when we least expect them.

For example, have you ever received an email message that included a series of initials that you hastily Googled so you could appropriately respond and “save face”? Or have you ever read an article with a term you never heard before, only to find out that it is now an accepted form of corporate-speak?

We’ve found that today’s buzzwords loosely fall into four general categories:

Online lingo for “news snackers”

Stemming from texting, instant messaging and chat rooms as well as Twitter talk, this type of online lingo has accelerated dramatically over the past couple of years, much of it making its way into mainstream communications.

A site called BuzzWhack [1] describes folks who favor these terms as “news snackers.” These are “people with short attention spans who primarily get their news in short bursts from things like Twitter, RSS feeds, mobile phones and glimpses of TVs posted on gas pumps or in elevators. Like most snacks, they’re tasty and easy to digest but aren’t good for you in the long run.”

You can find a list of some of the more common Twitter terms on Marketwire’s blog post featuring Twitter vocabulary [2].

Computer and technology terminology “creep”

Cloud computing [3],” “virtual desktop [4]” and “backward chaining [5]” — terms that are bantered about with increasing frequency in business and beyond — leave the non-techie’s eyes glazing over. Although these terms don’t crop up in most venues, they do rear their ugly heads in general business meetings from time to time only to make one feel like everyone else knows more than he or she does (when in actuality, no one does).

Corporate-speak and quasi-words

There’s a whole lexicon of strange terms popping up these days that appear in business, on TV sitcoms and reality shows. Quasi-words and phrases such as “synopsize” (to condense the details of a boring, two-hour meeting into a briefer — yet just as boring — version), “electronify” (the process of turning paper-based data into electronic or digital form), and “mouse potato” (someone who spends all his/her time on the computer surfing the net or playing computer games) keep wordsmiths on their toes, not to mention the “hip” from trying to cleverly coin their own words.

Street slang and urban lingo

Finally, there are buzzwords and phrases that originate from “the word on the street,” or slang. These are generally made-up or unrelated words that refer to a specific action or object. Although there are many types of American slang, the most prevalent today is street-leet [6] — a hip way of speaking that also appeals to the “nerd-dom” of the internet ala 1337 Speak [7]. Many street terms have also worked their way into the speech of the mainstream hip, such as “sweet,” “phat,” “bling” and “I got your back.”

How many of these buzzwords lodge themselves into the English language and eventually make their way into our reference material is anyone’s guess. But the more we stay abreast of them, the more equipped we are to keep in step with the blinding speed of the communications revolution.

In the meantime, lol [8] with your tweeps [9], take your virtual desktop with you to the Bahamas and chillax [10]!

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