Sunday, April 22, 2012

How Long Does a Word Last?

This week, I'm thinking about words. This is probably the point at which you would say, "well, I hope you're thinking about words, you're a writer." So true. But this week in particular, I'm thinking about how long a word lasts.

 Some of the books I've been reading recently have started using facebook, twitter and slang terms like, "geek out" or "tweeted". And it makes me think, when is it safe to use words in your writing? Sure, in something transient like a blog post, it doesn't matter how long the word lasts. Since it's scrolling content, most words will outlast the life of the post. Or it will get buried under cute pictures of dogs playing the piano.

But when it comes to more permanent pieces, like a magazine story or a book, when is a word settled enough to use? With the amount of time it takes to run through the publishing process, the word may have dried up by the time the story goes to print. Great examples of words like this are anything having to do with technology, or teen slang. The key reason for this is that these two things are always changing. Every generation has its own slang. I found out when I used the word "bodacious" around one of my students when I was a teacher. Sometimes, all my students could do for me was shake their heads and sigh. But there is some slang that holds on longer than one generation. "Cool" has been cool for longer than I can remember.

Technology also changes faster than ethernet speed. I can still remember going with my dad to work on Take Your Daughter To Work Day. They showed us on a screen how using a phone line, computers could now pass graphic content and files to be shared around the world. They called it, "The Internet". "This will never catch on," I thought. It's not the only thing I've ever been wrong about, but it's still true that most writers feel comfortable using websites and the internet in stories without fear of becoming outdated. Facebook is starting to be used more and more. Will pinterest gain a place in stories too?

 So my question this week is: What new words do you think will stick around long enough to be in a book?


  1. Pretty much all of the verbings will stick for a long time. Just look at how they took off in Shakespeare's time.

  2. I'm not sure. But I know that I don't love books that date themselves like this. I prefer things a little more timeless.

  3. It's difficult to know but you should include it if necessary to the story. It can always be seen as whimsy...

  4. I suppose one day, future kids will be reading it and there will be the asterisk.
    And she tweeted* her love!

    *tweeted- form of communication shared in a public online forum
    synonym: facebooked