Whichever language any of us speak, we have rarely shied away from coming up with new words. Now of course, unnamed new things surround us every day—especially new things on the internet. We forget that only in the recent past, we have had to come up with words like email, podcast, blog, crowdsourcing, tweet, the cloud and countless more.
Most of these words (for the time being) originate in English, and migrate to other languages. Some languages go with two words: their adaptation of the English word, and something made up in their own language. Chinese, for example, has a couple of ways of expressing email: 伊 妹儿 (yimeir, which sounds a bits like email) and 电子 邮 件 (dianzi youjian: electronic mail, often shortened to 电邮: dianyou).
When it comes to naming the as yet unnamed, social networking sites are fantastically helpful. My colleague at The Big Show, Jonathan Dyer, used Facebook to great effect when he posted this request:
“Is there a word for someone you have never met yet you share dozens of friends in common and they like or comment on just about everything your FB friends post? If not, will someone invent one so that I know how to refer to <name withheld> when/if I ever meet him?”
Here’s what he got back:
Virtual friend potential or possible electronic frenemy
Friends once removed
Members of my unnetwork
Jonathan’s favorite, though, was Facequaintance.
Also in the pod this week:
- The Iran-based translator of Firoozeh Dumas’ “Funny in Farsi” has vanished, probably arrested.
- Debunking myths about the Chinese language and things Chinese leaders are believed to have said.
- Multilingual Angolan singer Lulendo.
- The World in Words Podcast on iTunes
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- The World in Words on Facebook