By Lois E. Huffman, Ph.D.
The English language is constantly changing. New expressions pop up daily to describe the latest cultural and social phenomena. Innovations in science and technology also spawn new words.
Even well-established fields, such as literacy, are rich with freshly minted (or recently rediscovered) terms. Below are some I’ve seen online in the past few months. How many of these words have crossed your path?
antilibrary (also anti-library)
n. A person’s collection of unread books (wordspy.com)
How large is your antilibrary? Do your students have antilibraries? Hazel Philips, who is quoted in the Wordspy entry, maintains that “this concept justifies [a bibliophile’s] habit of incessantly acquiring new books while lacking the time to read them all.” I agree it’s comforting to have a “to-read stack” next to my bed and on my phone.
n. An area where books are difficult to access (chroniclebooks.com/blog)
My heart aches for students who live where there are no libraries, bookstores, or other places to get books. (See laschoolreport.com/commentary-students-live-book-desert/.) One solution is the Little Free Library®, “a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share.” The International Literacy Association is promoting construction of these book exchange sites around the world.
In The Little Free Library Book (Coffee House Press, 2015), Margret Aldrich shares the history and impact of this simple yet powerful global movement. According to The News and Observer, North Carolina had 190 Little Free Libraries in 2014. Is there a Little Free Library near you? (The one in the photo is in the J.C. Knowles Ambassador’s Garden in downtown Apex, NC – Charter No. 15781.)
Please be aware that the movement is not without critics. For more discussion on these citizens’ concerns, see “The Danger of Being Neighborly Without a Permit.”
n. A photo in which the front cover of a book fully or partially obscures a person’s face or other body part to artfully extend the cover image (wordspy.com/blog)
“The best bookfaces are carefully planned and staged.” (blog.wordnik.com/word-buzz-wednesday-bookface-dadbod-frexting) Just Google bookface to see oodles of incredible examples that will inspire your students to create their own.
v. To surreptitiously read the print or digital text that another person is reading or writing (reading over someone’s shoulder) (wordspy.com)
Have you ever done this? As a teacher (and parent), eavesreading might be part of staying aware of what the young people in your care are doing in order to ensure their safety and well-being. However, in most other contexts (e.g., on an airplane, in a line, in a coworking space), eavesreading is considered ill-mannered and socially inappropriate.
1. adj. Informed by insufficient reading; superficial; shallow
2. adj. Leaving a book unfinished (freedictionary.com)
Half-reading, per the first definition, is often apparent in blog comments, on social media, and on TV and radio talk shows. “Guilt Complex: Why Leaving a Book Half-Read Is So Hard” sheds light on the second meaning of the term and why many of us are compelled to read a book in its entirety even though we’re not enjoying it. (I still remember feeling horrible when I couldn’t force myself to finish Clara: A Novel by Janice Galloway. One of my friends even reminded me of #4̶ in Daniel Pennac’s Reader’s Bill of Rights―“The right not to finish”)
If you’d like to know more about how these new words were created, please take a look at Parts One, Two, and Three of the Viva Vocabulary! series on word formation: “New Words: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?”
I enjoy learning new words and hope you do, too. I will share more literacy-related neologisms (new words) in the second part of this post.