It’s suddenly 2016, and exciting things are coming for English, and all of its speakers should be pretty keyed up for how the language is going to get cleaner and meaner, and easier to use this year.
Hey, we know, all you foreigners have been telling us for centuries that ours is the hardest language to learn, and honestly it doesn’t make us feel bad for you. In fact, we like to be a little smug about that. It means we can learn your language in an instant, if we wanted to, having already mastered the hard one, right? By extension, native English speakers are prone to thinking that they’re innately more intelligent than the rest of the world, since WE caught on to English so easily. Mere child’s play.
But don’t worry, foreigners. We’re all about making things easier on ourselves, another little bit easier every year, so that’ll trickle down to you eventually. You’ll thank us, once you learn to say “thanks” instead of “thanking you”.
The biggest change for 2016, one you’ll notice the most, is cutting out the pairs. You don’t need to call scissors a “pair of scissors” anymore, and pants is just pants. Same goes, now for clippers, grippers, pliers, eyeglasses, panties, tongs, and thongs. You don’t have to wear a clean pair of jeans now, you just wear clean jeans. It’ll be a welcome rest for the word “of”, which has been run ragged for a while now. Of was never designed to be a conjunction for plurals and we’re finally making the first step on the road to relieving of of its overuse, gradually returning it to its proud place as the genitive companion to a noun. Anne of Cleves. John of Gaunt. Lawrence of Arabia. That’s what of was meant to do.
Experts expect the transition to be completed safely and quietly, since attention spans are dwindling and communication via thumbtap is nearly 10% of all human discourse now. We’re eliminating three whole words: “a pair of”, so collectively our early adoption of this rule will unemploy 81 healthcare workers in the carpal tunnel field. Sacrifices have to made.
The only new wrinkle is that several nouns will now have the same form plural as they do singular. These words won’t exist anymore come New Years Day: plier, eyeglass, tong, or jean. Of course, pant, thong, gripper and clipper will still exist, but only for, respectively, heavy breathing, leather straps, portable handles, and sailing ships. You won’t look at a bolt of denim and say “that’s jean material,” you’ll just say “it’s jeans cloth”. The singular is eyeglasses, and the plural is eyeglasses, so we won’t need to feel uncomfortable about that anymore.
When you found yourself with a tong in 2015, you were automatically confused. With the new rules, what you’re holding is a broken tongs, not a broken pair of tongs, and not a tong, and it’s broken so just throw it out. Ahhh, much simpler. Of course, this adds another exception to a rule, which drives foreigners nuts when trying to learn English. Sorry, and eventually you’re welcome.
There are some case-by-case changes coming to English in 2016, mostly aimed at maintaining credibility (and stunting idiocy) among journalists.
You are no longer allowed to use the phrases “boots on the ground”, “new normal” or “perfect storm.” C’mon folks, “perfect storm” has been deprecated since 2003, please keep up with the rest of the culture you pretend to reflect. Turning on and dropping out can only be done AFTER tuning in, so do your diligence before hitting the 60% cacao martinis.
Instead of “boots on the ground,” you may now say “military involvement” or “combat ops,” or opt for the more patriotic “coalition strike forces.” If you feel an urge to be retro, you may even say “invasion.” But it is time for you to smarten up and see that “boots on the ground” is redundant redundant, since boots in the air and boots on the water are both useless and brief, so that boots can only really be “on the ground” to be anything other than absurd. And redundant too.
You’ve been warned, and further use of “boots on the ground” is free fodder for snickers behind your back by other journalists, and by pundits who you thought were your friends.
“New normal” had relevance in the Great Deprecession of 2008 through 2011, but the catastrophic demise of the theory of The End Of History has taught us that all voids must be filled, always and everytime, so you may no longer pretend to be surprised at every new trend, nor proclaim it as a paradigm. Doing so in 2015 unclothed you as a dimwit, and please note that we are only able to use the term “paradigm” now in 2015, after a suitable period of rest after it was, itself, dead-horsed into scorned obsolescence in 1999. There is never any new normal, there is just normal, which becomes another normal when its kids start to hate it.
Some of you may think that “perfect storm” has been graduated from casual catchphrase into the regular lexiconic zoo. You are incorrect. Moving from the sporadic uses between the actual 1993 storm to the pandemic usage shortly after the eponymous 1997 movie, that was a logical step. But it was hackneyed by 2001, officially banned in 2003, and anyone who uses it now is tarred as someone who has nothing more interesting to say. Don’t be a someone. “Perfect storm” won’t be eligible for reconsideration until 2023, the 30th anniversary of the actual perfect storm.
And of course there are the podges of small annual changes to English, mostly additions and subtractions of single words here and there, most of which you’ll never notice. Flabbergasted, for example, has been retired for 2016. A relative newcomer is doomed to fall by the wayside this year, as “photobomb” will bifurcate into “selfyjack” and “popin”. Photobomb just doesn’t feel good on the human tongue.
Emoji is the OED’s marquee official addition for 2016, but that spotlight forecasts to be misdirected, since you don’t talk about emojis, you just do them. Nobody who uses emojis ever says the word “emoji”. I think the Oxford English Dictionary folks just got giddy over a new form of communication, being the linguistic scientists that they considered themselves back in school days. Only, they forgot their day job: English. If they want to make a dictionary of emojis, then let them try that, and compete and fail versus an 11-year-old suburban punk outside Tokyo. But as a noun in English, “emoji” is destined only to be a bit player, in the theatrical sense, not in the nerdpun sense.
Some models predict the emergence of a scandal suffix which will finally supplant “gate” in 2016. But then again they said that last year too, which would have turned Deflategate into Sheenballs and Clinton’s Servergate into Sheenmail. So it’s good when predictions don’t come true, some of them anyway. But still, the odds are good in 2016, if we have 15 candidates still in the race for President in February. Odds are excellent, in fact, that one of them will have a horrendous blowup involving both live boys and dead hookers, and we might finally be able to set “gate” to rest after 44 years.
Of note to biologists, you can now say “duodenum” and “pudendum” and “cocyx” once again, since 13-year-olds today can skim the full range of humanity’s comedy industry on their phone before breakfast. Along the same lines, penguin jokes are not funny anymore, but pigeon jokes will take off 2016. Yes, in the nerdpun sense too.
The final thing to be on the lookout for in 2016 is the emergence of a new assent adjective. Keen from the 1950’s didn’t last, but Cool from the 1960’s has kept right on truckin’ for 50 years, even persisting into a new form as Kewl. Failures since then are Mint in the ’70s and Rad in the ’80s, Chill in the ’90s and Hot in the Otts. The Tens have not popped out a pervasive assent adjective yet, and we’re halfway through ’em. There are candidates percolating through the undercard of the internet, but none have spilled over so far.