A generation (or “familial generation”) is about 25-30 years long on average. In other words, that’s the time it takes for a child to be born, grow up, and have a child of their own, who will be part of the following generation. A hundred years ago, when many people had children much earlier in life, generations were only separated by 15-20 years. It wasn’t uncommon to have family gatherings where the newest baby would sit happily in her great-great-grandmother’s lap as five generations of relatives shared a holiday feast together.
As the length of a human generation gets longer, that of English vocabulary gets shorter. New words are being born every day, and many of them have the potential to make a grandchild’s conversations confusing to their grandfather – the English of fifty years ago is in some ways nothing like the English of today. In fact, some parents have a hard time keeping up with their kids’ chatter! The pace of modern life is getting faster, and we’re creating vocabulary just as fast. Here are some examples of words you might have had to explain to your (grand)parents lately:
Technology and modern industry have contributed a lot of new words to the English language, along with the gizmos and gadgets that keep us connected and entertained, but there are new movements to get back to the time when things were a little simpler and closer to nature. Many people are planting home gardens and raising chickens in their back yards, do-it-yourself beer brewing and bread baking is back in fashion, and the locavore movement is going strong. A combination of the words “local” and the Latin root word vorare (“to devour” – as in carnivore and voracious), this word defines people who try to eat only food raised or grown where they live. Generally, “local” is defined as “within a 100-mile radius.”
When you take something that other people would, or have, thrown out, and you make something new out of it, you’ve added value by upcycling that item. Some good examples of this trend include using lumber and scrap metal from old boats to make wooden tables and chairs, creating chandeliers out of empty wine bottles, or using broken bits of china to make mosaic tiles for a garden space or indoor room.
Shakespeare is credited with inventing many words that are now part of the English language, and today’s authors continue to add to the richness of the language. One of the newest is muggle – and we’re pretty sure you already know the definition of this word. The Muggles in J. K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter are the nonmagical people, the ordinary humans who not only can’t perform magic, they often don’t even believe it exists. In current use, it’s someone who doesn’t know how to do something that the rest of the group does.
Check out more new words here – and then go share them with your parents!