New Words for How We Live Now

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Culture critic, blogger and the author of Wordbirds: An Irreverent Lexicon for the 21st Century (Simon & Schuster, 2013), Liesl Schillinger, shares her neologisms for things like a person who overdoes the teeth-bleaching ("brightbite") or an old boyfriend who won't go away ("polterguy").  

Have you coined a word to fill a 21st century need or have you come across new situations that need a word to describe them?  

Liesl Schillinger will read tomorrow at 7PM at the Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO.


Liesl Schillinger

Comments [33]


Sorry - just found my note from last week - never sent this in -
A word to describe the state of never having encountered the poetry of Yeats.

Oct. 24 2013 05:40 PM
Aldwin from Greater Bushwick

I'd say the seducer in an 'ego-tryst' is rather stealth-involved.

Oct. 16 2013 01:22 PM

We STILL need a gender-neutral word for referring to collective nieces and nephews! Sisters and brothers are siblings. Mom and Dad are parents. We have cousins and grandparents. But nieces and nephews have no gender-neutral name.

Oct. 15 2013 07:12 PM
Peggy T from NYC

I am looking for a respectful title for those who give their talents and expertise to not-for-profit work.

Recently my college’s Alumni Magazine listed the profession of each member of the Board of Trustees. To my surprise, among the “CEOs” and “Partners” I found myself listed as a “Philanthropist.” While I am charitable, “Philanthropist” is not how I would describe myself.

After college, I spent 11 years on Wall Street and retired as a Vice President in 1990. Since then I have volunteered my time, with the pure aim of furthering the organizations and institutions I care about. It has been exciting and rewarding work, whether raising money, developing strategic plans or chairing the board. I, and scores of others work for love, not for pay to advance our communities as well as the world beyond.

Few will dispute that we who volunteer time, energy and resources to our schools, hospitals, communities, churches and synagogues, strengthen the fabric of our society and contribute in ways that few communities or organizations could afford, were we to be salaried employees.

“Volunteer” doesn’t begin to suggest the value of our unpaid work. Nor are we “philanthropists,” although “love of people,” (the root of the word “philanthropy”) is one of our motivations. What then are we? Are we Civic Leaders? Social Activists? Change Agents?

If none of these titles seems quite right, perhaps it is time to be creative, to invent a new word. It is noble work that we do, and we deserve a title that gives us as much pride and satisfaction as the work itself. Please help me to move this conversation forward.

Oct. 15 2013 05:43 PM
SuzySandor from Manhattan

Electorgasm: a:the joy of voting b: the joy at your candidate wining c: the joy at the worst candidate (of the other party) wining d: the joy of the election being once again derailed by nothing in particular.

Oct. 15 2013 02:31 PM
art525 from Park Slope

Frank from Lindenhurst-that shape made of the ridges under your nose does have a name. I remember it from my artists anatomy classes. It's called a filtrum.

Oct. 15 2013 02:31 PM

Frank from Lindenhurst, the word for that is philtrum. Used in a sentence: Hugh Laurie has an enormous philtrum.

I think we need a word like widow/widower for a parent who loses a child & for siblings who lose a brother/sister. I don't know if these words exist in other languages.

Oct. 15 2013 01:32 PM

Mr. Bad and art525 beat me to the punch.

Oct. 15 2013 12:03 PM
Adam from Manhattan

Dentritus: the large pieces of detritus that you find accumulated on your dental floss after flossing

Oct. 15 2013 12:02 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I like "freudeschade," except it's too close to my coinage "freudenschade," meaning a reverse schadenfreude, which happens when the good things happening to your friends & family start to make you depressed because nothing like that is happening to you.

Oct. 15 2013 12:01 PM
rteplow from upper west side

Here are a couple of mine:

precaffeinated = one's state before having their morning coffee

deprovement = when there are changes made in a software upgrade (or any situation) that actually make things worse

when your dog sniffs every last pole or tree during a walk, I call it checking their "pee-mail"

Oct. 15 2013 12:00 PM
benita from UWS

When I was a high school teacher, I coined a word for the packing-up activity that occurred before the end of the period: pre-belling.

Oct. 15 2013 12:00 PM

What is the word for 'being adverse to admitting one's age?"

While "progressive" is overused, what ever happened to "liberal?" Is "liberal" even a word anymore or should it be bleeped out whenever someone tries to use it???

Oct. 15 2013 11:59 AM
Ellen Pitcairn from Brooklyn

Oh lordy, I must be old, but I'm thinking a word for wordbird is Rich Hall's sniglet. Surprised Brian missed it, but this game's always fun. I think we all do it.

Oct. 15 2013 11:58 AM
Frank from Lindenhurst

A word for parts of the anatomy that have no "no-medical" names. Those ridges between your upper lip and your nose is one of them.

Oct. 15 2013 11:58 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

What's the word for that feeling you get when you realize your 15 minutes of fame are just about up 1/2 way through a public reading at a bookstore in DUMBO?

Oct. 15 2013 11:58 AM
Mickey from Harlem

A person who texts while driving or walking.

Oct. 15 2013 11:56 AM

We need a word for citizens who run for government office for the sole purpose of destroying that very government -- in government to end government.

Oct. 15 2013 11:56 AM
art525 from Park Slope

How about a word for a person who is not nearly as clever as she is made out to be.

Oct. 15 2013 11:56 AM
ralphlewis from bowery

We need a word for citizens who run for government office for the sole purpose of destroying that very government -- in government to end government.

Oct. 15 2013 11:55 AM
ralphlewis from bowery

We need a word for citizens who run for government office for the sole purpose of destroying that very government -- in government to end government.

Oct. 15 2013 11:55 AM
ralphlewis from bowery

We need a word for citizens who run for government office for the sole purpose of destroying that very government -- in government to end government.

Oct. 15 2013 11:55 AM
Tim from Brooklyn

Need a word for one who makes an excuse for not replying to an email because it got lost among a ton of other emails. "I would have gotten back to you but your email got ___________________.?

Oct. 15 2013 11:55 AM
Kristen from Williamsburg

A word for : That moment when you just miss a call on your cell, you instantly call the person back and they don't answer.

Oct. 15 2013 11:54 AM

That uncomfortable feeling when you sit down in a public seat and can still feel the warmth from the person who was sitting there before you. Can be felt at its worst in the bathroom.

Oct. 15 2013 11:54 AM
Alex from Fort Greene

I need a word for

walking through the subway turnstile just as the train is pulling away.

I would use this word all the time!

Oct. 15 2013 11:53 AM

Some people look so different in photos. Eric Clapton is one whose appearance varies; Emily Watson, another. What would this property be - photo-malleable?

Oct. 15 2013 11:53 AM
Amy from Manhattan

What if you already have a word for something? I have 3--can I call in w/them?

Oct. 15 2013 11:53 AM

We have the word "hen pecked" for chastised husbands. What is the equivalent word for "chastised" wives?

Oct. 15 2013 11:52 AM

A word for that feeling when you're so angry, you cry.

Oct. 15 2013 11:25 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

How about overused words?

Like "progressive".

There is even an insurance company called "Progressive".

Oct. 15 2013 11:20 AM
Steve Brennan from Dobbs Ferry

Outdoors, on a sunny day, that darkish shape cast on the ground under a tree is a shadow. Go inside and the bright shape on the floor cast by the window, is a what? It is the counterpart to a shadow and we don't have a word for it as far as I know.

Oct. 15 2013 10:43 AM

Since American refers to anyone in the hemisphere Id like to refer to people from the USA as Staters.

Oct. 15 2013 10:27 AM

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