Random forays: Rebranding age-old words as new-age fads

Rebels, mavericks, innovators with no patience for tradition and propriety are being hailed as the heroes of our times.
The word ‘disruptive’ has itself become a fad, albeit in a different avatar. Being of disruptive nature used to be considered as bad behaviour or against societal mores. (Representative Image/ Shutterstock)
The word ‘disruptive’ has itself become a fad, albeit in a different avatar. Being of disruptive nature used to be considered as bad behaviour or against societal mores. (Representative Image/ Shutterstock)
Updated on May 22, 2022 02:09 AM IST
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ByVivek Atray

This era is all about breaking the mould, shattering glass ceilings and disrupting norms. Rebels, mavericks, innovators with no patience for tradition and propriety are being hailed as the heroes of our times. New-age words and terminologies are following suit and jumping way out of the box.

The word ‘disruptive’ has itself become a fad, albeit in a different avatar. Being of disruptive nature used to be considered as bad behaviour or against societal mores. However, these days the term is used to denote unqualified success and path-breaking achievement. Conferences often have sessions titled ‘disrupting the landscape’ or some such thing. Persons of disruptive nature are considered to be champions of a new technology or innovation.

‘Procrastination’ is another veteran word from the English language that has become a favourite with faddists. Many youngsters insist that they suffer from indecisive tendencies. They constantly seek remedies and counselling for ridding their minds of the ‘procrastination’ menace. Not only is the phenomenon common nowadays, the usage of the difficult sounding word has gone up by leaps and bounds.

‘Mostly’ is another common word that is being used uncommonly. Most youngsters use it to indicate that they will ‘most probably’ do a certain thing instead of the original meaning which means doing something more often than not. For instance, one may be told: “Mostly, I will be in Delhi on Sunday’. Almost all younger people use ‘mostly’ interchangeably with the likelihood of something happening. ‘Mostly, India will win tonight!’ they will say.

The word ‘killing’ has also taken on other connotations. Far from being utilised only for the dreaded act of ending someone’s life, it is now being used in rather namby-pamby circumstances. ‘You killed it, bro!’ basically means that a friend has spoken well on stage, aced an exam or even dazzled damsels with a rousing solo-dance . A ‘killer’ smile or a ‘killer performance’ make similar use of the K-word.

‘Savage’ is usually associated with someone uncouth and uncivilized but teeny bops use it to describe something that really impresses them (which in itself is rare!). ‘She is really savage’ will thus mean that the lady in question is actually top of the pops!

To ‘do’ something was considered an act associated with getting things ‘done’ but now one can ‘do’ Shimla or Manali or even a Barista, which basically means visit these places. It could also mean eat something or play something. ‘We can do Chinese food tonight!’ for instance.

The rather sick word, ‘sick’, has actually become a compliment for our Gen Z. ‘This is sick’ could mean that something is amazing, instead of the other way round! I guess the facial expression of the one mouthing the key word will be a giveaway for what he or she actually means.

To ‘chill’ has been an expression used for a long period of time and its meaning is by now self-explanatory. But in earlier times one might have said that one is seeking relaxation, calmness, or even slumber instead of putting one’s intentions as ‘I think I’ll just chill for a while...’

These are, of course, only some instances of the liberty which modern humans possess to change the game, which is in almost an insignia of current times. Nobody can possibly keep up with all the subtleties that languages keep adopting.

While the meanings of newly coined words such as ‘chillax’ and ‘staycation’ are self-evident, what matters at times is the knack of knowing in which sense a traditional word is being used. The age or work profile of the individual concerned might well be a giveaway in such cases. Trendy pros will use a lot of new jargon or new-age meanings while traditional seniors will stick to usual usages. A discerning mind will be needed of course, as well as awareness of changed paradigms!

When subtle nuances of meanings have been replaced by gross opposites or unconnected connotations, the only way in which one can stay ‘with it’ these days is by staying sharp!

vivek.atray@gmail.com

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