THE English language is changing so rapidly that the chatter you hear on the bus can sound like a foreign language unless you keep up to date with the latest buzzwords.
Someone with a "muffin top" sitting beside a "hoodie" may be discussing a "WAG" who was spotted buying a "man bag".
For those who are baffled, help is at hand today with the unveiling of the Collins English Dictionary's ninth edition, listing hundreds of new words which have entered into our mainstream consciousness. It will be available in print, online, on mobiles and as a desktop application.
The use of the English language is monitored for the dictionary through a 2.5 billion-word database from books, newspapers, magazines, journals, websites and transcripts of radio and television programmes.
As well as providing a speedy translation it gives a fascinating insight into our latest concerns about health, politics and fashion.
Healthwise, we are talking about "brainfoods", which supposedly make us more intelligent, and "man flu", the exaggerated symptoms reported by men with a cold.
The war on terror and bomb attacks in London have led to a new raft of words such as "7/7" as an abbreviation for 7 July, 2005, and the attacks on the London Underground. "Gitmo" refers to the Guantanamo Bay US military prison, while Londonistan is a controversial term implying the city is a safe haven for people who support terrorism.
Environmentalists will be pleased to see that both "carbon footprint" and "carbon offsetting", relating to tackling global warming, have been included.
On the fashion front, "muffin top", the roll of fat spilling out above jeans, is in contrast to the "size zero", equivalent to a UK size four, seen in some quarters as a desirable goal.
THE roll of fat overflowing the waistband of tight- fitting or low- rise jeans or trousers. It is said to resemble the top of a muffin. Most commonly seen on women, it is also a legacy of the trend for small midriff- baring tops. Women are increasingly taking a “ dare to bare” approach. It is believed to be Australian slang, originating in 2003.
TAMIFLU is an antiviral drug alternative to vaccination and is the Department of Health’s weapon of choice against the H5N1 bird flu strain which it is feared has the potential to kill millions of people in one of its mutations. It was widely used during the H5N1 influenza outbreak in south- east Asia in 2005. Many governments have been stockpiling it in an attempt to build up sufficient stocks in the event of a bird flu pandemic. Previous flu pandemics in the 20th century have killed millions of people worldwide. It is estimated that bird flu has so far killed around 200 people.
NUTRIENTS thought to assist brain function and widely advertised as helping children and students do well in examinations. Top of the list are “ brainfoods” containing Omega 3 and Omega 6, essential fatty acids which the body must obtain through foods. Brainfoods include walnuts, linseed, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, ginseng and fish oils. Food giant Branston is adding Omega 3 fish oil to baked beans and calling them ‘ Branstein’ to market them towards parents and children.
GITMO is slang for Guantanamo Bay, home to a US military prison which holds around 500 alleged terrorists or supporters from Afghanistan or Iraq. Images of prisoners blindfolded and shackled hand and foot and the low level of trials have led to calls from Amnesty International, the United Nations and the European Union for it to be closed down.
SMALL totes or satchels carried by men under the arm or with a shoulder strap. Derided by tennis star Andy Roddick who said: “ If you have a man- bag, the wall is waiting.” Catching on despite this. Used by Jude Law, Chris Eubank, David Beckham. Makers including Mulberry give them “ macho” names such as Alfie and Seth.
WHILE the full impact of global warming is still to be experienced, many scientists are warning that it is responsible for earlier springs leading to longer summers. They claim this is putting the rhythms of the seasons out of kilter with sunshine. Daffodils are appearing in what were traditionally winter months and spring crocuses flower for a second time in November. Studies have shown changes in nature and the environment, including birds laying their eggs earlier and buds appearing on some trees in late winter.
A CONDITION where men suffering from the flu exaggerate their symptoms to onlookers to imply that they are gravely ill. This is accompanied by the need to display a variety of medical props such as thermometers, painkillers and ice packs. Also involves blowing nose loudly, moaning and approximately a week away from the workplace. Does not affect ability to watch television, especially football. Men with man- flu expect to have constant attention from loved ones and do not want to be reminded of slightly more serious illnesses, or even childbirth, which may involve greater pain.
REFERRING to the presence of radical Muslims in the UK, it is a combination of London and the Persian suffix “ stan” meaning “ land”. Often regarded as racist and pejorative the word originated in 1995 from French counter- terrorism agents and was also used by the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
A HOODIE is a hooded sweatshirt, the garment of choice for disaffected youths who are accused of aggressive behaviour, shoplifting and violence. Stereotyping has led to the word being used for those who wear a hoodie. David Cameron, the Tory leader, was mocked by the Labour Party last year for his “ hug a hoodie” speech.
WIDE-SCREEN plasma television screens are becoming increasingly popular for home entertainment because of their brightness and high definition quality. They are designed to give the “ perfect black” for enjoying films. This is created by many tiny cells between two panels of glass holding an inert mixture of the gases neon and xenon. The gas in the cells is electrically turned into a plasma, which then excites phosphors to emit light. They are up to 103in wide and are expected to last about 60,000 hours or 27 years ( at six hours viewing a day).
EVERYONE has a carbon footprint – the effect their activities have on the climate, measured in terms of the carbon dioxide they produce. It takes into account heating, lighting, and transport. Carbon footprints can be measured by tools such as carbon calculators which allow people to see which parts of their life deserve most attention.
FORMED from the words “ celebrity” and “ debutante”, it refers to young women from wealthy families who receive a great deal of media attention because of their extravagant and wild lifestyles. A far cry from the high-society origins of debutantes, they include Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie who starred in The Simple Life, and Edie Sedgwick whose life as a muse to Andy Warhol was made into the film Factory Girl. British versions are more likely to be found gracing catwalks, at red- carpet openings or falling out of nightclubs – suspects include Peaches Geldof, Alexandra Richards and Elizabeth Jagger.
A USEFUL trend for those unable or unwilling to reduce their emissions. Carbon offsetting is the act of compensating for greenhouse gas emissions, for example by planting trees to counteract the effects of large amounts of personal air travel. It is very popular among celebrities and major corporations. The first step is to find your carbon footprint – a number of environmental bodies can do the calculation. You then buy “carbon offset” credits. Critics say such acts are futile and illogical and that radical lifestyle changes are needed.
BRITAIN’S answer to 9/ 11 – the shorthand term for the 11 September, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and the destruction of the twin towers. On 7 July, 2005, four suicide bombers carried out a series of co- ordinated terrorists bomb attacks on London’s public transport system. 7/ 7 has become shorthand for that date. The 7/ 7 bombs killed 52 commuters and the four suicide bombers and left more than 700 people injured. The attacks also caused severe telecommunications problems in the surrounding area lasting more than 24 hours.
A WIKI is a website which allows visitors to add, remove and edit the content of web pages. It is a form of mass collaborative editing and writing which means anyone can alter definitions on websites. Wikis allow an unlimited number of pages to be linked by using key words in different colours, usually blue, which lead on to further pages. Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, is one of the best- known wiki sites. “ Wikipedians” have formed clubs and hold informal social gatherings. Wiki comes from the Hawaiian word meaning quick.
PRO- ANA is a term which refers to a belief that being anorexic is a lifestyle choice and not an eating disorder. It has its own dedicated websites which have “ thinspiration” photographs of very skinny celebrities and “ reverse thinspiration” pictures of normal and larger- sized women. These sites include extreme slimming tips, quotes, songs and mantras. The biggest pro- ana site in the world is Anna’s Place, which has spawned take- offs such as Pro-scurvy and Pro- smallpox sites.
WAGS is an acronym for the “ wives and girlfriends” of sporting stars, usually footballers. The word became popular during the 2006 World Cup in Germany when the WAGs of the England football team became notorious for their shopping and drinking sprees in Baden- Baden. Victoria Beckham, pictured, is Queen of WAGs.
SIZE zero in the US sizing of women’s clothing is equivalent to a UK size four. Women of this size have a 31.5in bust, 23in waist and 34in hips. The size has been applied to dangerously underweight models. including Luisel Ramos, 22, who died in August after living off nothing but Diet Coke and lettuce.
A KEY part of the “ war on terror” that followed the 11 September 2001 attacks, rendition flights are organised by the US government and the CIA. Suspected terrorists or people believed to be helping terrorists are “ rendered” and put on rendition flights to third- party states where they face the possibility of being tortured.
THESE “starter castle” houses are the latest target for architectural watchdogs. The towering mega- houses, with four or more bedrooms, are increasingly encroaching on the outskirts of rural communities. Size and style don’t blend in with existing older houses but buyers want to live in older, established communities.