Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I was struck when I first read the word “heuristic” for three reasons: one, I never heard it before; two, I added a new word among my growing – and it is always growing – vocabulary; and I loved the definition as soon as I looked it up.

"Enabling a person to discover or learn something for her/himself."

Unlike heuristic, which has been in dictionaries since the 1800s, more recent cultural changes spawn words like “hoodie,” “internet,” “rap,” “takeaway,” “anime,” “blading,” “e-mailing,” “ginormous,” “losingest,” “spam,” “taggin,” and “worrywort.” New words find their way into our conversations, media, and personal lexicons daily.

Until a word can be formed, accepted, and adopted, "whatsits," "thingamajig," "you know what I mean" have to do. A while back I heard the word “takeaway” somewhere; I instantly knew what the person was trying to convey; and now it seems like the word's presence is universal. It is the title of a radio talk show, "The Takeaway."

All of this self-discovery led me to buy the book
A Century of New Words. I found it fascinating to read about how inventions and cultural shifts cause our language to morph into what we need to communicate with one another. I guess the exploration was a heuristic moment for me.

Here are three links that look at dozens of new words:

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