New words get old fast these days

Yesterday's Garner's Usage Tip of the Day was on neologisms, and I found it interesting:

Neologisms (/nee-AHL-uh-jiz-emz/), or invented words, are to be used carefully and self-consciously. Usually they demand an explanation or justification, since the English language is already well stocked. New words must fill demonstrable voids to survive, and each year a few good ones get added to the language. Some become vogue words; others are slow to achieve acceptance; still others, denoting scientific innovations, might never become widely known.

It is sobering to record what the greatest of late-20th-century lexicographers said about the slow acceptance of new words: "It usually takes slightly more than a century for a word to reach such a state of maturity that it is not recognizably or instinctively felt to be a newcomer." Robert W. Burchfield, Points of View 103 (1992).

Yet the explosion of electronic media in the second half of the 20th century has compressed time, and the standards for "maturity" are dropping. For whatever reason, we seem perfectly comfortable today with words such as "workaholic" (1971), "talk radio" (1972), "couch potato" (1973), "PC" (a personal computer in the 1980s, political correctness in the 1990s), "sound bite" (1980), and terms from the 1950s and 1960s such as "do-it-yourself," "glitch," "mall," "meritocracy," "middle management," "nitty-gritty," and "prime time."

This is from the second edition of Garner's Modern American Usage. The third edition was recently released, and I'd be surprised if it wasn't updated to reflect the ever-faster pace of new words becoming accepted, largely out of Internet culture. Everyone knows what a blog is, and they didn't even exist by that name 10 years ago.

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