(D)evolving language

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SEPTEMBER 22, 2015

If you asked my grandma 80 years ago to explain “FOMO,” “LOL” or even “POTUS,” she would have probably given you a sassy eyebrow raise and inquired, “What is a FOMO?” But her obliviousness would have less to do with the fact that she would have been a toddler and more to do with the nonexistence of the words.

It’s true, there hasn’t always been such a thing as FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Sure, the concept has definitely always existed. In fact, I’m sure my grandma’s chums probably went on a few trips to the soda bar while she was stuck at home — a scenario that would certainly induce a case of the FOMOs.

But society never felt the need to uselessly abbreviate strings of words that, quite honestly, don’t really even need to be a part of our daily language. I can’t recall reading any acronyms in the works of Chaucer or Shakespeare. How has this rapid creation of new words become so common?

I, and probably most people, blame the information age — this era during which we have at our fingertips all sorts of information, from intimately detailed reports on the economics of Belgium to notifications on the newest tattoos on the guys of One Direction. Even more, you can get nearly constant updates from friends on their #showerthoughts or #mcm, or totally uninvited photos of their amateurly prepared samosas. Really, anything goes.

Just imagine how easy the perpetuation of a silly acronym can be when you have access to millions of computer screens through Tumblr comment threads, viral YouTube videos and incessant tweeting at your favorite celebrities. Practically anyone can create the newest, hippest trend if the chips fall in just the right way. And suddenly, after mentioning FOMO, LOL and POTUS, instead of receiving blank stares, your conversation buddies will understand that, yes, these are English words.

But I always wonder, “What will this mean for the future?” With language changing at such a rapid pace and new “words” constantly becoming part of the colloquial lexicon, it won’t be long until our grandchildren will stare at us in amazement as we explain how in our day, there was no such thing as “strillow” or “GROR” or even “dorlell.” Well … not exactly those words, but you get the idea.

Contact Kayla Kettmann at 


SEPTEMBER 22, 2015

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