“Well, there are these lovely villas close to your preferred location,” the property agent smirked disparagingly at me, “if affordability is not an issue!” Instantly sirens started wailing in my head, steam started coming out of my ears, my hair stood on end and my face turned an impossible beetroot red. “How dare she! How dare she imply that these houses are too expensive for me! I’ll show her,” I fumed and went right ahead and booked the house. Hah! Triumph! Now who’s the fool? Hmmm…
“Ooh! Your shoes look interesting,” remarks my friend looking at my flat-heeled albeit very expensive ergonomic shoes, “So… well, so… rustic! I love how brave you are; I’d never have the guts to wear those in public!” I go right ahead and buy several pairs of super high heels that make me feel like I’m walking on thorns, and about to trip over. But hey! I showed her! I’m not quite sure what I showed her, but show her I did!
And that’s not all. I fall for it every time. Another scenario — I am looking at a beautiful golden party clutch; and another shopper gives me a “Do you even ever party?” glance (Yeah — glances can be very specific!). I pick up the clutch and bill it right away. It looks so pretty sitting in my cupboard now; I pull it out every now and then to admire it. I might even use it one day, who knows!
These are all examples of subtle and not-so-subtle ‘unsults’, as Homer Simpson calls them. An unsult is an insult disguised as a compliment. This term was introduced in The Simpsons’ episode Father Knows Worst, in which Homer is teaching his daughter, Lisa to become more popular. The recipient of the unsult doesn’t quite know what hit him and starts responding to the compliment with a smile and a ‘thank you’ when it strikes him that he’s just been pwned. Yeah, ‘pwned’ is a real word that means ‘being perfectly owned.’
Another interesting behaviour that needed a name was being ‘dissed’ or disrespected. A perfect example of this was when Kanye West stormed the MTV stage during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards while the then 19-year-old Taylor Swift was starting her acceptance speech for Best Female Video award. Snatching the mike from the confused girl, West swaggered around the stage and shouted to the audience that the award should have gone to his friend Beyonce. This was a ‘cringe-minge’ moment for the mortified Beyonce.
Word invention is at its best in this decade, and English has never been more interesting (some would argue, appalling). The Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez affair has faded into oblivion with both moving on; but the trend they started is here to stay. Their romance created the trend of portmanteau. Blended words such as Bennifer (Ben + Jennifer), Brangelina (Brad + Angelina), Tomkat (Tom and Katie) are now used regularly. But this fad does not just stop at celebrity couple names. Soon words such as ‘bromance’ (Brothers + Romance) became part of our vocabulary. So much so that when Sarah Palin mistakenly used the word ‘refudiate’, people went right ahead and started using it like a normal word.
Other words such as unfriend were desperately needed to describe behaviours or scenarios that already existed. Seriously, what would we do without all these media-generated slangs that enriched our vocabularies with weird, funny-spelt, obnoxious and outrageous words! This is so rad!
The writer is a Hyderabad-based commentator