That's What They Say
8:44 am
Sun February 10, 2013

If you 'fizzle,' at least be smooth about it

On this week's "That's What They Say," host Rina Miller speaks with Professor Anne Curzan from the University of Michigan about the "adorkable" slang of today's college students.

One can surmise the meaning of "adorkable" as a combination of "adorable" and "dork." Curzan says that this process of blending words to fill another undefined meaning is fairly common.

"It describes something that we didn't know we needed to describe until we had this word, and then suddenly it fills this need. This process of blending, where we take two words and "smush" them together, is pretty common in slang," says Curzan.

Suddenly with this process of blending, any action suddenly has a definitive word to go with it, as Curzan explains.

"This week, students taught me the word 'hangry' which they said is when you're so hungry that you get really cranky and angry."

If these words seem difficult to understand, one could say that you're riding the "struggle bus".

"When you're having a hard time, you're on the 'struggle bus,'" says Curzan. "And apparently if you're having a really hard time, you're driving the 'struggle bus.'"

Sometimes, as Curzan explains, words in everyday use have an etymology steeped in slang, such as the word "fizzle," which supposedly had a more flatulent meaning in the past.

"Around the 1600s, the word shows up in English, and it means 'to break wind without making noise,' says Curzan. "Then in the 19th century, it gets picked up in college-slang to mean 'to fail' or 'to come to a weak conclusion.'"

Descriptions of soda will never be the same.

-Austin Davis, Michigan Radio Newsroom