It's common these days for people to excessively — even obsessively — check their smartphones and other devices. They are being "fidgital."
You won't find "fidgital" in the dictionary, but you will find it — along with more than 200 other new words — in Lizzie Skurnick's book, That Should be a Word. It is filled with definitions, pronunciations, usage examples and illustrations for words she created in an attempt to catch up with a culture that's changing faster than the language.
When coining a word, Skurnick often takes two existing words and squishes them together to produce a modification that describes something new. Like the "domestech," which combines domestic and technology, to describe the family computer.
Technology and language
Technology is one of the fastest changing parts of society, Skurnick notes, and that triggered the need for new words to describe the objects and experiences that are part of this new frontier.
"I'm 42, so I grew up without technology like that, but then I also have it in my life now," she said. "So I have a double view of seeing how the world is really different now and how we've changed as a result of that."
Now, for example, we "smearch."
"That was the first word I had ever thought of," Skurnick said. "To 'smearch' is to go online looking for bad news about someone. And what I like about that word is that it's search on one hand, it has also smear as s-m-e-a-r and it also has ear in it, like hearing bad news."
"Evertime," a twist on overtime, was born to express how the imaginary line between our work life and private life is disappearing.
"That means always being on call for your work, always. Actually that's one of the things I resent about our technological age," Skurnick said. "You know, you really can't go anywhere and be alone, ever. If you leave your phone at home, people will react as if you've done something really crazy, as if you did something irresponsible!"
Work, family and friends
Employment also inspired the word "povertunity." It's the job opportunity one has to take, even though the salary is woefully inadequate.
Skurnick's book includes a whole list of made-up words related to the family.
"When you're giving birth, everybody has an opinion on how you should give birth and so one of my words is ‘bearthy,’" the author explained. "That's the kind of mothers who like to really have a natural birth, you know with no medication. ‘Brattle’ means to talk too much about your children. ‘Feditor,' that's someone who picks items out of your food that you cooked for them. That's like if you make a salad, then someone doesn't like raisins in their salad. So they pick them all out and put them on the side of their plate. I have a child, so I have in-house feditor right now."
Many of the Skurnick's new words grew out of requests from readers and friends.
Take, for example, "denigreet."
"I wrote that for a friend because there is a certain person and we ran into them in at party all the time and every time we met, they would pretend that they had never met! They would pretend that had never heard of her, like they didn't know her," she said. "So it really hurt her feelings because it was so deliberate. So I made up that word particularly for her."
Her friend loved the word, as did dozens of readers who sent in their feedback.
"People on Twitter love it when I give them a word. It's like finally a relief," she said. "That's the best feeling in the world for me when I feel like I've given someone something both funny and useful."
Funny and useful are also the right words to describe Skurnick's next book. It's puzzles about words, called Watch Your Language.