Just beyond my laptop screen, there’s one of those “year in review” shows on the TV (to be fair, we just enjoyed A Charlie Brown Christmas), with its best/worst lists, and dramatic countdowns of inconsequential pop culture news and infotainment.
These shows crop up, appropriately so, at year’s end, when the news cycle is slow. Politics and business take a break for the holidays, and, barring natural disaster, freak accident, or celebrity blowout, things are probably going to be slow until that first full week of January. Does it matter? Not really: most of us are too busy celebrating and socializing – or tired from it – to really miss the serious stuff.
Nothing really changes when we start a new year, but the end of the current one is the culturally appropriate time to take stock of the preceding days. And even if you’re the type that only looks forward, a quick review can at least provide some fodder to fill those inevitable conversational gap with friends and family (and any other folks you’re forced to spend time with) over the next few days.
Occasionally lancing from my computer screen to the TV seems an appropriate amount of interest for the program currently being broadcast. But one list – actually, a poll – caught my attention a while back. Time magazine’s website asked its readers to determine which word should be banished in 2014. And if you’re not a word nerd, the nominees might help you comprehend what your younger relatives are talking about during family get-togethers.
Many of the nominees are acronyms and other brevities rooted in the Internet or texting, like FOMO (fear of missing out [on an experience]), and lolz, a verb (for lack of a better word), derived from LOL – laughing out loud. Twitter itself garnered its share of disgust. If you’ve ever rolled your eyes at someone who’s mentioned “the Twitterverse,” or grated your teeth at someone saying “hashtag” during a conversation (rather than just use the filtering character), you understand. Selfie – awkward self-portraits snapped with a smartphone – is similarly awkward when spoken aloud.
Rounding out the list were cutesy terms for pre-existing situations, like bromance (a platonic, brotherly relationship between two males), awesome sauce (something which is generally awesome), presh (formerly known as precious), and “because” as a lazy-yet-cheeky preposition, as in “because science” when explaining global warming.
Which term garnered the most votes? Well, it wasn’t Twitterverse (my personal least-favourite), and foodie (someone who’s into food) was allowed to stay. Twerk took over a quarter of the votes. If you don’t know what twerk means, consider yourself lucky: anyone who’s seen the uncomfortable footage of a barely clothed Miley Cyrus thrusting about during an awards show unfortunately does. The Time editors noted that the term “embodied a different kind of angst” than past losers for this exact reason. While other victors were simply vapid or overused, the word and the image twerk bring to mind are utterly distasteful.
Will people continue to use these terms into 2014? Will some become an ingrained part of our language? Probably, as our lexicon is forever evolving and shaped by our culture. But yet another poll cited a different word as the most annoying of 2013, and perhaps it’s the most appropriate response to all of this language kerfuffle: the noncommittal and dismissive whatever.
But please trust me when I tell you that I’m at the opposite end of the apathy spectrum when I say to you: Merry Christmas, happy holidays and all the best for the new year!
All the social gatherings over the next few weeks are prime time for germs to spread. If you unfortunately feel a cold coming on, give this soup a go. It’s full of healing ingredients, and you can use up some leftovers in the process.
Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
(Adapted from www.nigella.com)
946 ml box chicken stock (or homemade)
150 grams thin rice noodles
¾ cup coconut milk
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp. Thai fish sauce
1 dried red chili
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. tamarind paste (or ketchup)
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. lime juice
150 grams cooked shredded turkey
250 grams stir fry vegetables
chopped fresh cilantro
Put chicken stock in a large pot to heat up. Put the noodles in a bowl and pour boiling water over or cook as instructed on package. Add the remaining ingredients, except vegetables, to the pot with the stock and bring to a boil. When the turkey is hot, add the vegetables and when they are tender – about a minute or two – add the drained noodles and serve in bowls, garnishing with cilantro to taste.