by Jill Amadio
Would you write this in your next mystery: “He awoke woke as usual, wondering if he might be roofied, kettled or lewked today. Then, as he threw back the bedcovers, he remembered it was his turn to rizz.”
How many readers and writers can figure out the meaning of these phrases? I wonder also how these new words translate into French, Italian, or the Baltic languages. Did you know that lollipop is a slang word for money in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand although the word lolly has been in use as referring to money in the UK for a long time.
Fortunately, I have yet to read a modern mystery that includes any of the above, although a recent read did include the work “hacked” to mean a fairly decent way to dispose of a body rather than hacking into someone’s computer (although it is sometimes tempting to want to snatch up a machete and aim it at my screen).
Gaslighting is common these days but to me the word “deceve” has a far more evil connotation due to its hard “e.” How about being roofied? No, not a new roof on one’s house but a slang word for the drug Rohypnol which, in itself sounds rather boring compared to its new version. I must confess I am rather partial to the word “dox” as it sounds medieval but I don’t write historicals so I would have to use it for its modern meaning, which is cyber-bullying, maliciously publicizing private, personal information about someone, and usually posting it online via social media.
Dox is similar to pox so maybe that is the connection. Medieval slang, or descriptive words, were and are scattered throughout historical novels and plays, especially by Shakespeare who wrote in The Tempest: “a pox o’ your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!” Yeah! That told ‘em. The bard also used the word “cotton” to refer to a lower-ranking peasant. One wonders if peasants were considered lewk back then because of their wearing of cotton garments that distinguished them instead of costly fabrics.
Acronyms are showing up, too, and turning into daily use as words in their own right. For examples, “lewk.” The letters were all at one time written in upper case and stand for Loitering Electronic Warfare Killer. Now, the first and last words, loitering and killer are understandable and fitting for mystery writers. However, the four uppercase letters together refer to, perhaps, a war machine waiting for the signal to attack, such as an army tank. In lower case, the letters form a word meaning a person’s individual fashion style by which he/she/them/their is instantly recognizable. I’d venture a guess that Sherlock Holmes and his deerstalker hat was the first of his generation to be lewk.
Here are a few of my own suggestions for slang in a murder mystery:
Tompt = a double-bladed dental tool for extracting teeth
Willabot = bird seed for large sparrows
Seso = blood-stained blue underwear
Atikul = a cell phone smashed in four places, a vital clue
Culik = a pearl-handled pistol
Daawtul = a female murder victim
Obviously, not a single one of the above, however specific, makes any sense but does lewk or dox?
Are we free to invent new words with the hope that readers can easily gauge the writer’s intent? That would be like writing a mystery within a mystery, and require a glossary like a list of characters at the front of a book as a few of the Golden Era mystery writers, like Agatha Christie, sometimes added.
What’s your opinion of the new additions to our language? Should they taught in writing workshops?
Jill Amadio is a mystery writer, novelist, journalist, and ghostwriter. Her standalone thriller, “In Terror’s Deadly Clasp,” is based on a true 9/11 story. Her award-winning mystery series features an amateur sleuth from Cornwall, UK, Amadio’s former residence before relocating to California and Connecticut.
14 thoughts on “Lewk and Other Odd, Ugly New Words”
The only hope we have is that the people who use these new words can’t spell them, much less write them, so there won’t be any books out there to read containing these odd words. But folks in the future will still have Shakespeare and Christie and a few books by some of us who still write in a readable language… but that of course does depend on a hope that kids are taught to read in school and right now that doesn’t look too promising. And of course some people are removing great books from schools and libraries, so that is problematic. Ray Bradbury wrote about a dark future like this in Fahrenheit 451. Orwell saw this coming in his book, 1984. Keep copies of these great books and others that you have so future generations can see what happened, though you might have to read it to them…
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Great idea, Gayle, to keep Orwell’s 1984 and others around. I just found another word being used, I am told, frequently on social media – stan, referring to an obsessive person. Weird.
Gayle, I love your suggestions to keep “real” books to share (or read) to future generations. We old school writers and readers have a valuable legacy.
I was talking to another like-minded gal at church who reminded me about cursive writing – the secret code future generations will not know!
It’s all actually funny in one respect – robots, new words, coded writing – we will be dinosaur bones in the museums of the future. Hey, we’d better increase our “calcium” (strong writing) so we’ll be well preserved! 😄
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Wow, what a helpful post! I keep seeing new words that I never heard of and often look them up–and decide that I’ll never use them, even if they’re real. Thanks for calling this to our attention, Jill!
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Linda, writers shouldn’t have to go through this word-meaning exercise but at least we know which ones not to use as they a re sure to change!
Hmmm… I find this quite depressing! One of the reasons I write is because I love the words in our beautiful language. I love Gayle’s comments. So wise. And, Jill, you’re braver than I am, tackling these new ‘words’ being used! Thanks for your research!
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Rosemary, thanks for your comments and I agree with you re Gayle’s. I can barely figure out what some media reporters mean these days. Thank goodness for our readers who, thus far, have not demanded writers join the mad rush over the cliff.
Words have lifespans, which vary in length. Some expire within a decade (groovy) while others last for centuries. When I studied Shakespeare or read vintage poetry in school I had to look up some words that are no longer in common use (nothing wrong with that), as well as unfamiliar terms I heard in British movies and music. I still have to look up slang and acronyms (what the heck is MILF?). Even American English has regional and cultural ‘dialects’ with their own phrasing and meaning. However, while transient language will give writing a period flavor, it rarely leads to everlasting literature.
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Let’s hope you are correct, Miko, with your theory although I cannot bear to think what strangevplots and characters will be created with these weird new words and future readers will have to grapple with them.
I guess I’m quite traditional about words, and am not looking for new ones. Although I love my thesaurus!
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Quite right, Maggie. I wonder when this woke language madness will end. If ever.
Loved your post! Often looking for words that carry pictures or stories with them–through time and common usage…your post got me thinking. Maybe a word that stops a reader in their tracks might be useful. Hmmm…
What a great post!! I had not heard of any of these new slang words. I’m reminded of a few from my teenage years which are laughed about now. A “scrum” no, not rugby, a scrum is a guy who is very attractive (or these days I assume they are called fit). “Gordon Bennett” was a way to express surprise or shock (rumored to originate from a small farm in Scotland in the 18th century) and of course everything was always “super!” – none are used now. So that gives me a lot of hope that lewked and rizzed are just transitory too.
Thanks, Hannah, for your comments. So far I haven’t seen the words I quoted used in mysteries except for ‘gaslight,’ which is also now frequently used by newscasters here, tossed off as if young people know what the heck it means, which they probably do. I must admit I use a few British slang words in my mysteries, and a couple of mild Cornish cuss-words but I usually ‘translate’ them for my readers!