Refurbished Words


By Elaine Viets

English is a constantly changing language, which is its delight and its difficulty. Old words are constantly being refurbished and given new uses.
One is troll, a word once associated mostly with fairy tales, as in “The evil troll lived under the bridge.”
Thanks to the internet and computers, troll has a whole new usage. As a noun, the Urban Dictionary says a troll is: “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.”
As a verb, to troll means to fool someone. Sasha Baron Cohen is the current Troller in Chief. He pranked sheriff Joe Arpaio into saying he’d have oral sex with Donald Trump.

Unpacked is another refurbished word. Unpack used to be something you did with a suitcase. Now it means to analyze. How many times have you heard a radio host on NPR say,
“There’s a lot to unpack here in this story on . . . ”
What refurbished words are you seeing, TKZers?

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About Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets has written 30 mysteries in four series, including 15 Dead-End Job mysteries. BRAIN STORM, her first Angela Richman, Death Investigator mystery, is published as a trade paperback, e-book, and audio book. www.elaineviets.com

15 thoughts on “Refurbished Words

  1. Three words that amaze me at how much their meaning and usage have shifted, over the past twenty years or so, from utterances limited to those considered vulgarians to mainstream usage by respectable people of all ages are:
    Sucks
    Frig
    Balls.

  2. We have to mention the obvious words of course: screw, gay, surf, pencil (as a verb), and friend (again, as a verb). I am afraid to use words in new ways until they’ve been around awhile because if it’s just a fad, my writing will quickly become dated.

  3. “Surf the net” is a long way from the Surf City I knew as a kid. “Friend” as a verb is a Facebook abberation. “Gay” is a good change, in my opinion. We needed a word to describe homosexuals.

  4. In my day job, “office” has become a verb, and “hotel” an adjective for temporary officing…
    When you “firm up” a penciled in appointment, you “ink it in” the calendar, or sign a deal by inking it…
    And folks who earn an excessive amount of money “make bank”…

  5. abbreviations of words on my pet peeve list, and used by the very young – who haven’t yet learned how to spell or pronounce words; and, depressingly, young children who are taught by listening to their parents and young adults:

    prolly for probably
    benfy for benefit (a new one written by someone on Facebook)
    defo or deffo for definitely

    Language and culture go hand in hand – they’re both ever-changing. For me and others who studied words for their etymological roots, learned how to pronounce them; and discovered the richness and power of language to command and comfort, thrill, chill and resonate, it’s time for us to let our much-loved language die along with our culture, go through the stages of grief and accept that we are the past. Deffo.

      • Thanks for that good thought. 🙂 I have good days and not so good days, Elaine. Today, was a not so good day when I saw a young mother with her toddler. She was ignoring her offspring to chat on her mobile phone. Two things hit my sad/mad switch: her child was pointing to something and asking, ‘Mummy…mummy, wassat?’; Mummy took no notice, and carried on with her chat, whose every mangled word – I was appalled to realise – I understood.

  6. The strangest thing I’ve seen recently has been in office-speak.
    “Ask” has become a noun, not a verb.
    As in: “My ask here is that you include more details in your daily reports.”
    I am almost accustomed to it now, but at first, it made no sense whatsoever when I’d read it in emails or hear it spoken aloud in virtual meetings!
    Had anyone else in Corporate American heard this, or is it just my weird team from Visalia?

    • I’ve not heard “ask” as a noun, but corporate America has definitely mangled the language. Hope this new trend dies a quick death in Visalia, Cyn.

  7. Keep fighting, Lita!!!
    I, too, am a Freedom Fighter against mangled English! Especially here, in my small-town environs.
    I have moments of despair when I hear someone say “Yeah, I seen that too!”
    I still try to correct. It’s instinctive. I’m already the “kooky city Goth-girl” so how much worse can it get?

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