originally published April 27, 2012
There’s something about a new word. A word is special when it’s fresh, new, and somersaulting off the lips of people with the fever of new-found meaning. Years ago I coined the contraction “besn’t”, as a shorter form of telling my kids they’d best not do something (“You besn’t light the dog on fire – our insurance doesn’t cover that.”). While that word hasn’t yet taken off among the teeming masses, the previous decade has seen a few that did.
Like Manhattanhenge. Pictured above, this is a biannual phenomenon that quite literally casts an interesting light on the island of Manhattan. As you may have guessed, the name is derived from a similar phenomenon that occurs at Stonehenge in England.
On the summer solstice, the sun shines through a number of the monuments at Stonehenge, which creates a dazzling effect, and – I don’t know – summons dragons or something. I’m going light on research today.
Manhattan was designed in a grid system, with the streets running about 29 degrees off the cardinal directions. Around three weeks before and after the summer solstice, the sunset lines up snugly between the massive buildings, casting its quirky dusk all over the city. Up around midtown, this is a pretty phenomenal thing. It’s hard enough spotting the sun at its height during the day, so catching a glimpse of it dangling like a thought bubble over the horizon of New Jersey is pretty awesome.
The best pictures of this event are taken near the eastern edge of the island, in order to capture the tunnel effect of the skyscrapers. Bonus points to the shots taken on 34th Street (beside the Empire State Building) or 42nd (with the Chrysler Building). A similar effect occurs in most any city on a grid system – you can find a ton of images of Chicagohenge and Torontohenge as well.
Lactivism is another great new word, used to describe the most outspoken supporters of public breast-feeding. Often lactivists will engage in a protest called a ‘nurse-in’, which is kind of like a sit-in, except with boobs.
Not having boobs myself (alright, kind of… I really should work out more), I probably shouldn’t get too political on this issue. I will say that I strongly suspect the most outspoken anti-public-breast-feeding spokespeople probably have the most lurid collection of pornography on their hard drives. I’m just saying, this wouldn’t be the first recorded example of selective prudery.
Speaking of sex, I suppose I should get around to quirkyalone.
This term, coined by To-Do List magazine publisher Sasha Cagen, refers to someone who is single, and is happy to stay single rather than date someone just for the sake of being in a relationship. This is one of those fad phrases which had enough truth in it for a sufficient portion of the population that it turned into a ‘movement’.
I’d honestly never heard of the term until this article, possibly because I’ve been quirkymarried for years now, or maybe because it just never made its way up to stupid, henge-less Edmonton. Most of my newly adopted modernisms came from Seinfeld, which is probably why I haven’t heard of so many of these.
But if you told your sister-in-law how you went all medieval on some Mexican drug-lord’s ass because he was cheating by feeding his pig Benadryl, she would read that you went all medireview on the guy. The filter made the change even if the word was part of another.
So your email could finish up by telling her that the psychiatric reviewuation at the police station the next morning went well, or that you happen to like statementist art. Your sister-in-law will be more concerned for your well-being than she already should be.
This brings us to Daytonnati. This is a term ‘occasionally used’ to describe the areas of Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio. An article in the Cincinnati Business Courier suggests that the two cities may officially merge as early as the 2000 census!
This is an old article. But I guess the two cities are tucked in pretty close to one another.
And speaking of sex (well, I was a few paragraphs ago), the term ‘chickenhead’ also finds its way onto this list. This is a derogatory term for a female, one that suggests an alternative reason why her head might move in a similar back-and-forth motion as a chicken’s. If this word is not already on the menu of your regular vernacular, I would recommend adding it right away.
I’m going to finish off with the word that first tilted me onto this list. On first glance I thought it was another Polish village (there are roughly 960,000,000 of these on Wikipedia), then I read it a little closer.
The first definition of this word is the most logical one: someone who performs sexual acts on a webcam in exchange for money or gifts. The definition has expanded to include any person who excessively posts pictures or videos of themselves online. The word probably also applies to a prostitute who will only accept cameras as payment.
It strikes me that the majority of new words from the 00’s either refer to, or have something to do with sex. I guess I besn’t be surprised.