Guest Columnist

Tallboy, buzzy, vacay: An Iowan's guide to 2019's new words

One volume of the
One volume of the "Dictionary of the English Language" by Doctor (Dr.) Samuel Johnson, 1755. Photo June 11, 1955.

New additions to dictionaries offer the opportunity to reflect on our evolving culture and the ways we communicate.

Merriam-Webster announced the addition of more than 500 words this month, to include words that demonstrate “meaningful use, sustained use, and widespread use.”

One new definition received more attention than the others — the addition of “they” as a singular pronoun to refer to people who don’t identify as “he” or “she.”

The dictionary editors acknowledged pairing singular “they” with plural verbs “can make the grammatically conservative uncomfortable.”

But this usage has been common for many years and is intuitive to most English speakers. Construct sentences the same way you always have when talking about a person whose gender you don’t know.

The dictionary folks offer this helpful example: “They had adopted their gender-neutral name a few years ago, when they began to consciously identify as nonbinary — that is, neither male nor female.”

See, it’s simple. Other new words may be more difficult to master. I’m here to help, with a selection of 2019 words Iowans can incorporate in their everyday conversations.

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Autogenic training means “a self-relaxation technique that involves silently repeating one or more statements intended to produce a relaxed feeling of bodily warmth and heaviness and to foster a state of physical and emotional calmness.”

Iowans might say, “The farmer was anxious about tariffs, but he calmed himself through autogenic training, quietly chanting, ‘short-term pain, long-term gain.’”

On-brand means “typical of a particular brand or public image or identity.”

An Iowan might say, “Sen. Bernie Sanders’ remarks at the Iowa State Fair rally were ill-informed, but they were definitely on-brand.”

Tallboy means “a tall cylindrical can for beverages (such as beer) usually measuring 16 fluid ounces.”

An Iowan might say, “I usually drink tallboys, but it’s gameday, so I brought 25-ounce cans instead.”

Solopreneur means “a solo entrepreneur.”

An Iowan might say, “I work from home as a solopreneur, and I’m planning to move to another state to avoid Iowa’s disproportionately high business taxes.”

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Peak means “being at the height of popularity, use, or attention.”

An Iowan might say, “That incoherent grumbling about immigrants and the fall of Western civilization was peak Steve King.”

Buzzy means “causing or characterized by a lot of speculative or excited talk or attention.”

An Iowan might say, “The Green New Deal is buzzy right now, but it’s not actually a detailed policy proposal.”

Sesh means “a shortening of session.”

An Iowan might say, “There’s an election next year, so don’t expect anything meaningful to come out of the 2020 legislative sesh.”

Haircut means “a reduction in the value of an asset.”

An Iowan might say, “Illinois’ impending legalization of recreational marijuana will deliver a haircut to Iowa’s tourism revenue.”

Vacay means “vacation.”

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An Iowan might say, “Grandma usually stays here during her vacay to the Midwest, but she’s staying with my cousin in Illinois next summer so she can visit a dispensary.”

Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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