Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Legitimate illegitimists?

It's not often you get to watch a new word being launched, but we might have one here. On Slate yesterday, Anne Applebaum gave it a shot:
In contemporary America, we also have people who are — and I am inventing this word here — illegitimists: They believe that the president of the United States is illegitimately elected, or that the country is ruled by a cabal that is in turn controlled by some other sinister force or forces.
(She is careful to note that her intent is to be agnostic with respect to political persuasion, by noting that this also described Marxists in an earlier era. Not everyone buys this attempt.)

Just as a word, illegitimist is not unknown. It has no dictionary entry in standard dictionaries (at least, as per and Even the mighty OED does not have a specific entry for this term. However, there is a precedent or two:

  • In Treitschke's History of Germany in the Nineteeth Century, we find "... must play the magnanimous protector of the illegitimist Isabella."
  • J. E. P. Boulden has a play named Medicine; or, the legitimists and the illegitimists.
But these are slightly different meanings, I deduce; these refer to people who are illegitimate, as opposed to people who question the legitimacy of something.

This seems like a handy term to me. It covers more ground than various specific manifestations of illegitimism (birthers are her poster child). It gets at a kind of core belief system that's independent of the specifics of why the illegitimist thinks the government is illegitimate, and even which government (or other authority) is being thusly considered.

One could imagine the term being used outside a political context, I suppose. You might use some term and point at the American Heritage Dictionary as your authority, and I could be an illegitimist about that authority. Or we could use the term to debate someone's religious beliefs and the sources thereof; or, if the term really dug in, we could use it to refer to anyone who questions any claim made by an appeal to authority. That seems unlikely, but you never know. Still, the term has to start somewhere. Let's see how it goes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

PepsiCo and the future of snack terms

The May 16, 2011 edition of The New Yorker has a fascinating article ("Snacks for a Fat Planet," paywall) about the PepsiCo's efforts to try to divine their future markets. It's also fascinating for an unusual number of neological-type terms and for the not-entirely-clear formula they're using to determine whether to put presumably unfamiliar terms inside quotation marks.

The two terms that struck me first were drinkified (for foods) and snackified (for drinks). Here's a cite that sums it up:

Let's say you give a kid a carrot," Nooyi [CEO] explained. "And he says, 'I don't want to eat a carrot.' But you say, 'I tell you what, I'll give it to you in a wonderful drinkable form that's still as close to the carrot as possible.' All of a sudden, what have I done? I've drinkified the snack! Or I take a fruit juice and give it to you in a wonderful squeezable form, which is Tropolis. What have I done now? I've snackified the drink.

There are ~9000 hits on Google for drinkified; many of them reference this same thing (either the article or similar stories about PepsiCo).

I'm just going to go out on a limb here and muse that these two terms are going to irritate a lot of people.

As I say, there were some other terms in the article as well. One is, I think, of Pepsi origin, others are from other fields, but relatively unfamiliar. Let's say that there are a lot of quotation marks in the article around terms. Here's my list:

  • reward sensitivity -- a term from psychology (?) referring to how easily people are satisfied. (Something that people who design snacks take into account.) No quotation marks in the article. (34K Google hits.)
  • bliss point -- the point at which you achieve satisfaction, same context. In quotation marks. (48K Google hits.)
  • sip and spit, e.g. sip and spit rooms -- the technique used for tasting. In quotation marks. (Familiar from wine and coffee tasting, I suppose -- 160K Google hits.)
  • blue-can Pepsi -- the traditional/original version of Pepsi. No quotation marks. (8K Google hits.)
Not all new terms, but new enough, I guess, that John Seabrook (or some editor) decided that some -- but not all -- needed to be marked.