Il New Oxford American Dictionary ha reso pubblica la scelta del 2008 per la parola dell’ anno: hypermiling che rappresenta “il maggior numero di chilometri fatti con il minor consumo di carburante, relativamente alla macchina e alle tecniche di guida”. La parola e’ risultata troppo specifica e correlata alla recente crisi finanziaria.
I neologisti di Oxford, hanno quindi pensato di divulgare una nuova serie di parole tra cui quella che piu’ e’ risultata significativa e’ stata: Frugalista.
Il frugalista e’ definito come “una persona che segue uno stile di vita frugale restando, pero’, alla moda e in salute riciclando i vestiti, comprando cose di seconda mano, riutilizzando e incrementando cio’ che possiede, etc?” Questo potrebbe diventare il nuovo nome di battaglia del “guerriero della recessione”.
Ricca di significato etimologico, e capace di essere forte nel presente e per il futuro, e’ frutto di una combinazione di linguaggi attraverso il suffisso ista che rappresenta la versione spagnola dell’inglese ist, dell’americano ism o del nostro ismo.
La prima volta che questa combinazione venne utilizzata fu nel 1928 per il nome dei sostenitori del leader nazionalista-socialista del Nicaragua, Augusto Ce’sar Sandino.
Il mondo della moda americana fece suo il suffisso nel 1990 con la parola Fashionista usata da Stephen Fried nella biografia della super modella Gia, per definire “Tutto quello che ruota intorno alla Bellezza” come l’esercito di modelle, fotografi, stilisti, truccatori, parrucchieri etc. ?
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The lexies at the New Oxford American Dictionary took a deep breath this month and made public their choice for 2008’s Word of the Year: hypermiling, defined as an “attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques.” This can range from the sensible checking of tire pressures to the more esoteric driving in bare feet. In auto-crazy California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger prefers another coinage for the practice: EcoDriving, with an oh-so-with-it capital D instead of the old-fashioned hyphen.
Neither of these concocted words revs up my linguistic engine. That’s because they are news-specific (or as they write it in Sacramento, NewsSpecific). But what the vocabulary needs when gas is an astronomical $4 a gallon is far from the same when the price at the pump falls back to a more earthly $2. My choice for the Word of 2008 has to be attuned to the economic event writers will be dealing with in 2009: a word for the recession (which we optimists call “the prerecovery period”).
Fortunately, Oxford’s neologists have provided us with their shortlist (that’s one word now, just in time for the interregnum’s farrago of choices), from which we can make our own choice of hottest word. One entry is CarrotMob, “a flash-mob type of gathering, in which people are invited via the Net to all support and reward a local small ethical business by patronizing it at the same time.” Sorry, that’s too specialized. Another is topless meeting, “in which the participants are barred from using their laptops, BlackBerries, cellphones, etc.” Nope; that conjures an image in my mind of a board meeting with all participants stripped to the waist, sitting around in minikinis, causing some sexist executives to call for a smoked-glass ceiling.
But wait: one entry on the Oxford shortlist rings my bell, with its rich etymology, current utility and potential staying power well beyond the nonce. It is frugalista, defined as “a person who lives a frugal lifestyle but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying secondhand, growing own produce, etc.” This could become the nom de guerre of the “recession warrior.”
Ista ? the Spanish version of the English suffix ist, as its ismo is our ism ? was adopted as a combining form in our language in 1928 with the Sandinistas, the name for the supporters of the Nicaraguan Socialist-Nationalist leader Augusto Ce’sar Sandino. A political party was founded in his name in 1963 and is currently the elected government of that nation.
The American fashion world picked up the suffix in the 1990s. Sarah Hilliard, an associate editor at Oxford University Press, informs me that the coiner of fashionista was Stephen Fried, who defined the word in “Thing of Beauty,” his 1993 biography of the supermodel Gia, as “the army of models, photographers, designers, hair and makeup people who toiled daily in the fashion trenches.” It has since been given a broader meaning to cover “one who closely follows fashion,” though some meanspirited anti-eliteniks use it as a synonym for “clotheshorse.”
Arbiters of good usage resigned to being called “word police” have been denounced as wordinistas, just as nosy reporters have been derogated as scandalistas. In 2007, when a mild downturn was seen by some as necessary to avert a future bust, recessionista surfaced, coined by the economist Larry Kudlow, and was defined in The Times as “the new name for the style maven on a budget.” It faced a fierce competitor, however, in frugalista, used in 2005 by The Palm Beach Post and The Toronto Star and picked up since in a Miami Herald blog by Natalie McNeal that she calls the Frugalista Files.
I think frugalista has a nice ring to it and is not as obvious as recessionista. The adjective frugal is rooted in the Latin for “fruits,” which in the 16th century some found relatively cheap. The word was at first applied to the careful apportionment of food, but Shakespeare in his 1598 “Merry Wives of Windsor” used it as a metaphor to mean “sparingly supplied; thrifty” of anything, as, “I was then Frugall of my mirth.”
Concerned about your budget in this year’s market debacle? Sharpening your pencil and tightening your belt, foraging for bargains but not altogether abandoning good food and good screens? Join the frugalistas!
“I want to move with all deliberate haste,” said President-elect Barack Obama at his first, brief press conference after his election, “but I emphasize ‘deliberate’ as well as ‘haste.’ “
It’s not easy to be both deliberate and hasty at the same time unless you are consciously embracing an oxymoron ? from the Greek word meaning “pointedly foolish” ? and it is a jarring juxtaposition of contradictory words like “cruel kindness” and “thunderous silence.”
Obama based his oxymoron on a phrase in a 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, ordering the striking down of segregation in schools “with all deliberate speed.” In 1964, Justice William Brennan wrote: “There has been entirely too much deliberation and not enough speed. The time for mere ‘deliberate speed’ has run out.”
Years ago, researching the phrase for my political dictionary, I sought the help of Justice Potter Stewart, who found it in a 1912 decision by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes drawing on English chancery law. Stewart informed me that the curious formulation later became a favorite of Justice Felix Frankfurter, who used it five times in his decisions.
Deeper research had been done by President Lincoln. A friend recollected a similar oxymoron in 1861 when Lincoln was asked if he favored the immediate emancipation of slaves. “It will do no good,” he replied, “to go ahead any faster than the country will follow. . . . You know that old Latin motto, festina lente.” That was reportedly a frequent saying of Augustus Caesar and can be translated to mean “make haste slowly.”