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Language of the 2010s: It Was What It Was

Rob Kyff on

Well, that was fun. Whatever you call the past decade -- "the Teens," "the Twenty Tens," "the Twitters" -- we can all agree that our language defined the 2010s.

Every teenager's sentence began with "So ... " and ended with a question mark, and every acknowledgement speech began with "I'm humbled ... " What's not to like?

Long-held linguistic conventions vanished faster than Blockbuster stores. Farewell to the distinctions between "fewer" and "less," "uninterested" and "disinterested," and "comprise" and "compose." And R.I.P. to the traditional meanings of "enormity," "beg the question," "fulsome," "literally" and "unique."

In desperate response, revenge-of-the-word-nerd books such as "Dreyer's English" and "Between You & Me -- Confessions of a Comma Queen" rocketed to the bestseller list.

The most savage linguistic battle of the decade was fought over the gender-neutral singular pronoun. Already frustrated by the awkwardness of "he or she" and the sexism of "he," we now had to acknowledge nonbinary gender identities.

Merriam-Webster offered a solution by crowning the singular pronoun "they" as its Word of the Year for 2019. But will every person feel that he or she ... er, they can embrace the singular pronouns "they," "their" and "them"?

Having said that and moving forward, let's double down on the catchphrases of the decade. After all, it is what it is, you do you, and it's all good. Wash, rinse and repeat.

Mission-driven business execs, whether they were moving the needle, monetizing, branding, leveraging or reaching out, were laser-focused on platforms, takeaways, bandwidths, best practices and lots of moving parts.

 

Meanwhile, techies were trolling, catfishing, ghosting and going viral, as they devised workarounds, hacks, bots, bitcoins, algorithms, drones and the cloud.

Politicians, whether honest brokers or stakeholders, spun narratives of culture wars, witch hunts, partisan divides, fake news, train wrecks, the deep state and the alt-right to weaponize each party's base.

Millennials, all woke bros and antifa BFFs, were having a moment as they issued trigger alerts, yelled "OK, Boomer!" and threw shade on #MeToo microaggressions, mansplaining and white privilege.

Speaking of boomers, they were gobsmacked as they tried to unpack this linguistic inflection point. Intentional and mindful, they handcrafted a lexicon that was relatable, curated, artisanal, sustainable and ironic.

And as for the 2020s? Welcome to the new "new normal."

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Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to WordGuy@aol.com or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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