Words from the 21st century

Words from the 21st century

In the twenty-first century, at the dawn of the Anthropocene (2000) era, the human race began to abandon analogue socializing for the seductive delights of the digital ether. The twitterati’s (2006) word was law. How delightful to be retweeted (2007), but being defriended (2004), or squashed with an unlike (2008), was not so much fun. And the grown-ups certainly did not approve of sexting (2005). There was a hashtag (2007) for everything.

YouTubers (2006) whiled away the hours in front of their screens. You might be listening to a podcast (2004), or viewing a vlog (a video-blog; 2002), or, if more conventional entertainment was your thing, you could binge-watch (2007) some box sets (on Blu-ray (2001), of course). But why not be your own auteur, with an avalanche of selfies (2002) (facilitated in due course by the selfie stick (2012)). You would have to hope no one would try to photobomb (2008) you.

Social media also enabled such phenomena as the flash mob (2003), a sudden assembly prompted by media messaging, and crowdfunding (2007), financial contributions from a wide range of sources. Altogether less welcome was happy slapping (2005), in which photographs of an assault were posted online.

For the athletically minded there was free running (2003), also known as parkour (2002). The more sedate might opt for Sudoku (2000), or arrange for a spot of glamping (upmarket camping; 2005). Soccer’s galacticos (2003) dominated the back pages of the newspapers (or perhaps you read them online, even if they were behind a paywall (2004)), and the Wags (wives and girlfriends; 2002) always made good copy. Cricket, meanwhile, continued its search for the public’s buy-in with Twenty20 (2002), a twenty-overs-a-side competition.

Did you still do your shopping instore, using chip-and-pin (2001), or did you prefer to go online with click-and-collect (2000)? Overindulgence in either might result in the need for a declutter (2000). Any spare cash you had left over might be the target of chuggers (2002).

We gobbled up our health-giving goji berries (2002), tut-tutted over fatbergs (2008), hoped we would not get SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome; 2003) or Norovirus (2002), perhaps tentatively sampled the new e-cigarettes (2007) and, if we were male, found that our male friendships were bromances (2001) (but also, we might find ourselves being ticked off for mansplaining (2008)).

There was much to the decade that was butters (horrible, disgusting; 2003), but also a lot that was nang (good; 2002) if not totes (2006) amazing.

And so the noughties (1990) gave way to the teens, and there was trouble in Europe. Greece was in danger of being forced out of the euro zone, and journalists reached for their favourite standby, the blend. So Grexit (2012) was born, joined in quick time by its hypothetical cousin Brexit (2012), a tale still unfolding…

Editor’s note: the first citation represents only the earliest documented use yet found by OED researchers; a word may have been in circulation somewhat earlier.

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