April 10, 2008. West Indies versus Sri Lanka at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad. Left-handed Shivnarine Chanderpaul facing left-arm swing bowler Chaminda Vas. Six runs needed to win the match, nine wickets down. Chanderpaul hit the winning runs with one mighty blow. What do you call that? You may say "Wow!" You can shout, "Fantastic!"
However, these words are not specific to Chanderpaul's feat. We say "Wow" or "Fantastic" for all kinds of occurrences. True, by any measure, it was a "Wow" moment and it was "Fantastic", but there is another less known word that captures the essence of Chanderpaul's feat. The word is "Sockdolager" and there is no question Chanderpaul's feat against Sri Lanka, like Javed Miandad's winning six for Pakistan against India in Sharjah in 1986, was a genuine sockdolager.
A sockdolager is something that ends or settles a matter—a decisive blow or answer. It can be Clay versus Liston in February 1964 and the punch that nobody saw. Andy Murray's victory celebration after winning the US Open was $6,448 so that must have been a sockdolager of a party. Nobody is sure of the origin of the word. The best guess is that a "doxology" is "a short, final hymn sung in praise of God" and a "sock" in the American sense is a "blow" or "punch". There is another word to describe both Chanderpaul and his feat. It is "amazeballs", but we will come to that in a while.
While "sockdolager" is not new, it was around in the 1830s, there are some interesting new ones that have been included in the Collins Online Dictionary. An article in Yahoo's "Lifestyle" says: "Mummy porn" is one of 80 words and phrases to have been added to the Collins Dictionary website, alongside new entries "frenemy", "floordrobe" and "amazeballs". These are seriously wild words but, as economist John Maynard Keynes once said, "Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assaults of thought on the unthinking." You can say that again!
Take "mummy porn". The term describes erotic novels such as Fifty Shades of Grey that are read by women or cater to an overwhelmingly female audience. In passing (according to Wikipedia) and for those people who are a little out of touch with popular taste, Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic novel by British author EL James.
It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and sadism/masochism. The series has sold 40 million copies worldwide, with book rights having been sold in 37 countries, and set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time, surpassing the Harry Potter series.
Maybe if Harry had an affair with the Half-Blood Prince he would have held his own. However, the Grey series has met with mixed reviews—some liking it (yummy porn) and some saying it is mindless sex stuff (dummy porn).
"Frenemy" has come up before. It is a "portmanteau" of "friend" and "enemy" and means either an enemy disguised as a friend or a friend who is also a rival. "Floordrobe" is my room in the apartment in Trinidad that I am temporarily using. As I left it this morning, there was a pair of shorts on the floor. This is the essence of a floordrobe—socks, underwear and other garments tossed carelessly on the ground as we disrobe, and left there. Having discovered that I took off my trousers, flung them on the bed before I fell asleep, I also have a bedrobe and I am sure closer examination will reveal a couchrobe.
The one that's new to me is "amazeballs". One reader says his mother would have taken out the belt and beaten him for using the word. Thirty-year-old Tanya Clark, who suggested the word, explained, "I first saw it on Facebook and I just thought it was really cool. My daughter is ten and she uses it all the time. I think it is one of those words that will be used a lot by teenagers and pre-teens."
Amazeballs means "excitingly cool". The Urban Dictionary is not impressed with it and says, "A douchey/hollywoody way to say amazing, originated by a Youtube comedy duo named Jessica and Hunter and popularised by blogger Perez Hilton." Actually, as one critic said, using one of the other new words in the Collins, "Whoever included amazeballs must have been blootered (drunk)." Chanderpaul's innings today would be "amazeballs".
An older word might well be most appropriate for those of us who appreciate the need for new words but still prefer elegance of expression to shock appeal. What is happening to language today, given the increasing influence of Twitter and social networking, as well as texting, is best summed up in the word "zeitgeist"—a combination of "zeit" or "time" and "geist" meaning "spirit". The word was popularised by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the German philosopher. It means "the spirit of the time; the general moral, intellectual, and cultural climate of an era". The best example of the use of the word is a quote from blogger Nicholas Pell, "Twitter provides an insight into the minute-by-minute zeitgeist of the Internet."
To try and change the trend though is "Sisyphean", named after the Greek king, Sisyphus, who was condemned to roll a heavy stone up a hill only to see it roll back down and he had to start the whole process again. The question would have been in today's jargon, "When the rock rolled back down did Sisyphus make a fuss or throw a hissy fit?"
• Tony Deyal was last seen saying this
is what our language will come to,
"dad@hvn,ur spshl, we want wot u
want&urth2b lik hvn. Giv us food&4giv
r sins lyk w 4giv oddaz. Don't
test us! Sav us bcos we know
ur boss, ur tuff&ur cool 4eva! Ok?"
Recognise this? It is a text
version of the Lord's Prayer.