Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Hijacked! - or I'm A Neo-Blogger

I've been wondering for a while now about the social process of a word getting hijacked. For instance, when I was much younger the word gay meant:
1 a : happily excited : MERRY b : keenly alive and exuberant : having or inducing high spirits
2 a : BRIGHT, LIVELY <gay sunny meadows> b : brilliant in color
3 : given to social pleasures; also : LICENTIOUS

And today it also has the added definition:
4 a : HOMOSEXUAL b : of, relating to, or used by homosexuals <the gay rights movement> <a gay bar>

Actually, the first three usages have fallen into disuse. Don't get me wrong, as I'm only using that as an example. After all, some of my best friends are of that (#4) persuasion.

Specifically, I am thinking about the prefix neo-. I'm not speaking of the film role Neo, the acronym NEO, or the programming Neo, just the prefix. Now Merriam-Webster defines neo- as:

Main Entry: ne-
Variant(s): or neo-
Function: combining form
Etymology: Greek, from neos new -- more at NEW
1 a : new : recent <Neogene> b : new and different period or form of <Neoplatonism> : in a new and different form or manner <Neoplatonic> c : New World <Neotropical> d : new and abnormal <neoplasm>
2 : new chemical compound isomeric with or otherwise related to (such) a compound <neostigmine>

This prefix is commonly used as Neo-Nazism, Neo-Fascism, Neo-Paganism, Neo-Luddism, Neoplatonism, Neo-Liberalism, Neo-Conservativism, and many more. Obviously, the pefix is quite useful. Look over the list I've presented here, and ask yourself this question: "Overall, do these terms have a negative, neutral, or positive connotation when I hear/read them"? I think you'll have to agree that mostly they represent a negative connotation. Usually a newer form of something is considered better, or positive (unless you consider yourself a Neo-Luddite). In today's common usage, however, neo-(insert concept here) is a term of derision and condemnation.

It appears that neo- is well on the way to being hijacked. The latest slur will be to insert neo- before whatever insult you would normally hurl at a person or group. I think I'll be the first Neo-Blogger!

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