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Learning English - Words in the News
 
02 January, 2009 - Published 16:25 GMT
 
New words
 
New words

What does the word "Meh" mean to you? Or how about "Jargonaut" and "Frenemy"? Those are just three of the words chosen by people in Britain for inclusion in the next edition of the Collins English Dictionary. But not everyone's heard of these words, as Rob Norris reports:

Listen to the story

The way we speak and write changes all the time. Expressions which once sounded "supercool" or "hip" can end up sounding a bit "naff" - or even "pants". Compiling dictionaries to keep up with the ebb and flow of the English language is a full-time job. Hundreds of people in Britain came forward with suggestions for the new dictionary.

The most popular was "Meh" - spelt M-E-H - an expression to show that you're unimpressed - that something's mediocre or boring. "Meh" is thought to have originated in the United States and it's becoming increasingly common in speech, emails and text messages worldwide. Other popular suggestions included "Jargonaut" - a person who uses lots of jargon, and "Frenemy" - an enemy who falsely portrays themself as a friend. So do people in central London recognise these new words? Let's try "Jargonaut" first:

VOX POPS:
- I would have said it was something to do with a juggernaut, but that's just me!
- Jargonaut... I don't believe I've come across that before - I can hazard a guess - someone who is proficient in the use of jargon - business-speak, that kind of thing - you know "out of the box" and all that sort of nonsense!
- Frenemy... well I have heard it before, and I think it's to do with a mixture between friend and enemy, and it's someone that you have to be nice to, even though you don't want to be.
- Meh? Meh...I must admit I'm drawing a blank on that one.
- I would say it's a shortened version of "nightmare", as in "I'm having a mare"…"I'm having a nightmare".

So "Meh!" could take a while to catch on - and some people may hope that it never does.

Rob Norris, BBC

Listen to the words

supercool
(informal) very modern and fashionable

naff
(informal) worthless, tacky, unfashionable

pants
(informal) very disappointing

ebb and flow
the way in which something regularly changes depending on a situation

mediocre
unoriginal; adequate or acceptable, but not very good

themself
(nonstandard) reflexive and emphatic form of 'them' when 'them' is used as a non-gender-specific singular pronoun

something to do with a juggernaut
relating to or describing a very big lorry

come across
seen or heard

I'm drawing a blank on
I have never seen or heard; I have no idea about

to catch on
here, to become commonly used



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