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Fashionable words falling out of style


If you use the word ‘fuddyduddy’, young people might just think you are one.

This week on That’s What They Say, host Rina Miller and University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan talk about the rise of fashionable words.

After using the word in class, Curzan states that her students had no idea what she was referring to. When she asked whether they knew what she was talking about, only a few students knew what a ‘fuddyduddy’ was.

“I explained that it was an old-fashioned person”, says Curzan, “and they just looked at me like I was an old-fashioned person.”

Words like ‘nincompoop’ seem to be falling out of fashion while other words such as ‘knucklehead’ are on the rise, explains Curzan.

There are some words can elicit an unexpected reaction when used to describe something or someone, such as ‘snappish’ or ‘snappy’, which means clever or smart. According to Curzan, some people may misinterpret it to mean ‘quick’ or ‘angry’.

What fashionable words do you use? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

-Omar Saadeh, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.
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