The evolution of language can be a beautiful thing to behold. After all, it’s not so long ago that gay meant ‘happy’, a dashboard was something you stood on, and the F-word was a simple synonym for “hit”. English changes all the time, and that’s awesome.
What’s significantly less-awesome, on the other hand, is people’s lame attempts to coin new words online. Usually created in reference to politics, usually insulting, and always awful, hearing the following words is like watching someone defecate on a copy of Shakespeare. Here are the top 10 awful, trendy words we need to stop using immediately, for the sake of every generation that follows us.
As in… “Geez that guy on the internet totally just mansplained the meaning of mansplain to me.”
The history of mansplain is practically venerable where trendy words are concerned. Coined in 2008, it was the result of an article by Rebecca Solnit called “Men Explain Things To Me.” In her article, Solnit took issue with men assuming they knew more about her on any topic, including ones she was a qualified expert on. Feminists seized on this as a day-to-day example of men acting like jerks. Mansplaining was born.
Why it’s awful: Mansplain really took off in 2011, and it’s now so widely-used that Oxford Dictionaries include it in their online database. And that’s a real shame, because mansplain is just about the ugliest word on the planet.
As Alexandra Petri once wrote, it doesn’t even make sense. It should be ‘manxplain’ (man + explain), but that would sound even uglier. It’s the sort of word literally nobody uses in real life, and trust us, that’s not a misuse of literally. Without Twitter, it would simply cease to be. Even noted feminists have come out against mansplain for being divisive and kinda sexist (but mainly it’s just a really poor effort at making a portmanteau).
As in… “Hey, bro! Get a load of those chicks campaigning for women’s rights! Bunch of feminazis.”
Unlike many ugly words, which kinda just appear from random sources, feminazi can be traced to a single creator. Overweight, ultra-conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh coined it in 1992 – originally to refer to feminists who were very pro-abortion. Over time, he dropped the abortion part, and simply used it to refer to feminists and female activists in general. When the internet sprang into being, it migrated into general online usage.
Why it’s awful: It’s a self-Godwin.
Godwin’s Law is one of the truest laws of the internet. It states that the longer an online discussion goes on for, the higher the likelihood of someone referring to Hitler or the Nazis. At that point the conversation becomes worthless (unless you’re in a history forum discussing WWII or 1930s Germany). The term feminazi leapfrogs the discussion part and Godwins your entire point within a single word.
As in… “With the coming EU referendum, investors are worried that a possible Brexit could spark a Grexit, followed by a Czexit, followed by… (continue until every country name in Europe has been combined with ‘exit’.)”
Brexit has been around since 2012 to refer to the possibility of Britain ‘exiting’ the European Union. It’s actually an updating of the word ‘Grexit’, which was coined earlier the same year when it seemed likely Greece would crash out the Union. Since then, variations like Czexit have followed, leading to an overload of portmanteaus crashing together country names with “exit”.
Why it’s awful: There’s nothing inherently wrong with Brexit. Whoever first coined it probably thought it was a mildly-amusing way of describing a dry EU debate. But, like the suffix ‘gate’ being added to the end of every word involving a post-Watergate scandal (“horsegate”, “plebgate”, etc) it’s now been overused by lazy journalists to the point where it’s almost suffocating.
Currently, Brexit is one of the most-used words in English newspapers. It’s also spawned other nightmare words such as ‘Bremain’ (the possibility of Britain remaining in the EU), and ‘Brexiters’ (to describe those who want to see a Brexit). The moment these two trends combine to create ‘Brexitgate’, the English language will officially be dead – killed by lazy headline writers.
As in… “wake up sheeple! Can’t you see corporations/the media/the government/etc are manipulating you!”
Sheeple is a surprisingly old word. According to Oxford Dictionaries, it dates from at least the 1940s (Google claims the earliest known usage was in 1945). It basically implies that a large majority of the public are unthinking sheep (sheep + people) who will follow the herd, even when that herd is leading them to a Commie takeover/consumerist dystopia/Libertarian nightmare.
Why it’s awful: If words could be hipsters, sheeple would be the bearded guy in the flannel shirt, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon while ironically pretending to like Nic Cage movies to amuse his annoying buddies. Why? Because sheeple is a word that nobody uses seriously anymore.
Sheeple today is only ever used sarcastically. Like a hipster posing in a stupid retro outfit, people drop it into discussions assuming everyone will know they’re being ironic. Just as irony doesn’t negate the fact the hipster is still dressed like a doofus, the people saying sheeple are still the idiots saying this stupid word.
As in… “Wow, my blog just got picked up and retweeted by one of the Twitterati! That’ll get some extra page views!”
Way back in the 17th century, a word was needed to define a new breed of scholar. Learned men who owned books and often wrote prodigiously, they became known as the literati, a name derived from Latin.
Fast forward to the 1950s, and people were looking for a term to define those who hung around the wealthy and influential in Hollywood and similar places. The world christened them the glitterati. Jump forward to the 21st century, and journalists decided to coin a term for people with a lot of followers on Twitter. Guess what they came up with.
Why it’s awful: Elevating people who can tweet a selection of 140 characters in a vaguely-provocative way to the level of writers like Sterne, Johnson and Swift is so egotistical it reads like a satire of vapid, 21st century culture. Twitterati already sounds like a bad pun, like it was coined specifically to mock Twitter users with an inflated sense of self-importance. Only those same people are now using it to describe themselves, like we’re trapped in a never-ending spiral of oblivious self-mocking.
As in… “Screw those Rethuglicans with their rightwing fascist policies!”
Rethuglican – a blending of Republican and thug – is a slightly-odd one, as it’s in common enough usage to crop up on most political comments threads, but no-one really knows when it originated, or who coined it. It seems to have just emerged out the ether, but we’d put good money on it being a 90s or 2000s invention.
Why it’s awful: If you need an illustration of how pointlessly polarized politics has become, look no further than Rethuglican. While leftwing people calling conservatives ‘fascists’ is definitely off-putting, at least the insult focuses on an external thing: fascists are bad, so therefore acting like a fascist is bad, too. It implies the person being called a fascist is an outlier from the rest of the right wing. Rethuglican, on the other hand, implies that its target is bad because all Republicans are inherently thuggish.
This is both damaging and moronic, and is exactly why politics today feels like a bunch of angry toddlers screaming at each other. Demonizing an entire segment of the population simply for being who they are is always a dumb idea.
As in… “Screw those Libtards with their Commie-pinko policies!”
Like Rethuglican, Libtard (Liberal + retard) is now just about everywhere. Seriously, bung it into Yahoo Answers and you’ll find about a billion threads all starting with, “so why do libtards…?” Just like Rethuglican, no-one knows where it really originates from. While other anti-Liberal words like Moonbat have been definitively traced to a single source, Libtard has no widely agreed upon origin.
Why it’s awful: It makes you sound like you’re still in Kindergarten, losing an argument to a 4 year old.
Libtard has all the same faults as Rethuglican, with the added bonus that it sounds even more like something a spoiled child should be saying; probably with tears rolling down their cheeks as they wonder why the other kids won’t play with them. Once again, it makes it seem like the politically-active in America are a bunch of whiny babies who’ve forgotten how to play nice.
Then there’s the fact that combining any word with one as offensive as retard should be a no-no. But hey, that’s probably something only a Libtard would say, right?
As in… “The Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage. I guess the gaystapo got their wish…”
A close cousin of feminazi, gaystapo first turned up on the rightwing talk circuit, likely inspired by The Pink Swastika – a 1995 book that argued gay people were responsible for the Holocaust, rather than being victims of it. It’s usually used today by people wanting to tar all gay rights activists with the Nazi brush. Some of them are even kinda mainstream. In the UK, a politician from the Ukip party was recently caught calling gay people the gaystapo.
Why it’s awful: The moment anyone starts comparing groups that historically suffered under Hitler to Nazis is the moment they officially fail at being a rational creature.
This isn’t just a problem on the rightwing. A far-left version might involve calling Jewish Israelis “fascist Nazi scum.” But it all amounts to the same thing. These groups by definition cannot be just like the Nazis, for the very simple reason that the Nazis would’ve murdered them in death camps without a second thought. To try and claim otherwise is simply the height of stupidity. And nothing sums up the stupidest side of humanity quite like the dimbulb word gaystapo.
2. Rino / Dino
As in… “Man, Hillary is just a Dino! You can’t trust her.” or “Man, Trump is just a Rino! You can’t trust him.”
In 1994, resurgent rightwing Republicans were looking for a way to denigrate colleagues they thought were too willing to compromise on certain liberal issues. They came up with Rino, an acronym for Republican In Name Only. After Rino caught on, leftwing Democrats decided to come up with their own version: Dino. Since the mid-90s, the two terms have appeared more-or-less constantly online, although Rino is now being edged out by cuckservative in some nationalist circles.
Why it’s awful: If there’s one theme that keeps resurfacing in this article, it’s that words that deliberately divide us and demonize whole groups of people are probably a bad idea. Both Rino and Dino do this in spades. They’re ways of delegitimizing your opponent’s views, simply because you disagree with them, which is never a good thing.
More to the point, they’re also words that sound exactly like other, more-popular words. By using them, pundits are only ensuring that people who’ve never heard the terms before are left confused, wondering why the heck the two main parties have elected lumbering beasts to run the country.
As in… “You’re just another Hilbot/Berniebot/Obamabot/Putinbot who doesn’t understand what’s really going on in this country!!!”
The term Obamabot first rose to prominence in 2011, around the time that it seemed like the Republicans might take back the White House in 2012. Originally, it was used to identify a very specific type of Twitter user: someone who unfailingly supported the president on every single decision, and verbally attacked anyone else on Twitter who criticized him.
Over time, though, the meaning began to evolve. Today, it’s essentially an insult tossed at people who take Obama’s side in any online debate. This same usage has carried over to newer variations like Hilbot (for Hillary Clinton supporters) and Berniebot (for Bernie Sanders supporters). Same goes for Putinbot, although the Russian leader is interesting in that he’s the only one who genuinely does have an army of paid bloggers who trawl the internet, defending him on random message boards.
Why it’s awful: This last one violates all the golden rules. Not only is it divisive, and involves dismissing and demonizing your opponent, it’s also an example of people sticking one suffix on the end of other words, over and over again until it feels like you’re drowning.
Here’s the thing. Adding ‘bot’ or ‘gate’ or anything else to the end of a random name or object does not a good word make. All it does is create an annoying new buzzword for people to clap themselves on the back over, all while stifling genuine debate. If we keep going at this rate, all online discussion will simply wind up being a bunch of people shouting ‘Obamabot!’ or ‘Putinbot!’ at each other until there’s nothing left on the internet worth reading.