Published: 04th September 2021
English Blues: From doomscrolling to truthiness, how new words get absorbed into our vocabularies
From doomscrolling to truthiness, there are certain phenomena unique to this generation, and thus, we give birth to new terms and words to make sense of them. Here are a few in vogue these days
New words are born almost every day. It is estimated that almost a thousand new words that are used widely are added to the lexicon every year. Major dictionaries such as Oxford, Cambridge, Collins and Merriam Webster celebrate new words by announcing their Word of the Year. For example, the Collins Word of the Year 2020 was ‘lockdown’. The dictionary registered over a quarter of a million usages of the word during 2020 when billions of people across the world experienced lockdown due to the spread of Coronavirus. The word ‘lockdown’ is so popular that almost everyone knows its meaning and impact.
Some of the new words added to the dictionary in the recent past are: Infodemic, truthiness, and doomscrolling.
When more and more people use a particular word, the word starts gaining legitimacy and becomes an acceptable word. For example, the word ‘infodemic’, a portmanteau of information and epidemic, has been used widely in the recent past. As a resource person for a faculty development program, I gave a talk on the topic ‘Tackling Infodemic’ on August 26. A conference titled “Infodemic: A Stanford Conference on Social Media and COVID-19 Misinformation” was conducted by Stanford University on the same day. Recently, Supreme Court Judge Justice Chandrachud commenting on a "post-truth" world, in which "there is a contest between 'our truth' vs 'your truth'" spoke about the negative impact of infodemic on society. His speech became viral and many took to social media to discuss the word.
What is ‘infodemic’? It refers to information overload. According to dictionary.com, - “Infodemic is a massive amount of widely and rapidly circulating information about a particular crisis or controversial issue, consisting of a confusing combination of fact, falsehood, rumour and opinion.” It was journalist and political scientist David Rothkopf who coined ‘infodemic’ to describe a situation where "a few facts, mixed with fear, speculation and rumour, amplified and relayed swiftly worldwide by modern information technologies" affect economies, politics and security.
Here are some authentic examples:
- The #infodemic community is growing globally!!!
- It is clear that infodemic has been the greatest challenge for science journalism in a pandemic.
We are all familiar with the word ‘truth’. Can you guess the meaning of ‘truthiness’? It is used to express something that seems like truth but there is no evidence to prove that it is true. The word was coined by American comedian, writer and political commentator Stephen Colbert. Though the word was named the Word of the Year in 2005 by the American Dialect Society, now the word is widely used. Many dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, have included the word. It is a very meaningful word now when we encounter so much disinformation.
- There is a certain amount of truthiness in the news anchor’s report. Take it with a pinch of salt.
- Truthiness is believing that all teachers are noble.
By decoding the meanings of the words ‘doom’ and ‘scrolling’, we can guess the meaning of the word ‘doomscrolling’, coined in 2018. It refers to the act of spending an excessive amount of screen time on negative news or bad news. The term “doomsurfing” also means the same.
- Doomscrolling can affect our mental health and we should kick the habit.
- It is good to know why most people are drawn to doomscrolling.