Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So Five Minutes Ago

Being a person who writes about pop culture and tries his damnedest to elevate it beyond the level of “OMG, can you believe [unremarkable thing] happened?”, I had to be proud of this past weekend. Basically, for a brief, 140-characters-or-less moment, I got to engage in dialogue with a guy who represents what I think I should want my career could be. Earlier this month, cool guy writing person Rich Juzwiak of fourfour fame tweeted about the linguistic legacies of Clueless, noting one ism in particular as having crept into everydayspeak.

I starred it. I thought about it. And eventually I had the time to look into whether that was true. It’s not. Although linguists aren’t sure exactly when five minutes ago starting coming out of the mouths of the snide and snobby as a put-down for anything that once rocked but now sucks, they claim It’s not actually Clueless that popularized the phrase. It’s the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie that did it, and William Safire himself said so. (He was neither the first or last wordy nerd to point out Buffy’s effect on linguistics, it should be noted.) And while that’s a feather in Joss Whedon’s “I directed Avengers” headdress, it also proves that you don’t have to be Shakespeare to be a driving force in language. Current-day pop culture invents and popularizes language too. Hell, the OED entry for much — in the sense of “Way to trip. Walk much?” — cites Heathers, Buffy (the TV series this time) and a Gilda Radner-era Saturday Night Live sketch.

I tweeted a response to Juzwiak — almost a month later, fully in the spirit of five minutes ago, I should point out — and he responded:

Acknowledging my point while also tactfully pointing out the garbagey nature of the ovie I’m giving credit to. See, this is why people read him.

All that said, I figured that five minutes ago made as good a launchpad as any for a certain strange and wonderful word:
nudiustertian (noo-dee-uhs-TUR-shun) — adjective: of or relating to the day before yesterday.
Yep, so much build-up for useless vocabulary. I’m just happy this word exists, for the same reasons that I like bissextile and perendiate, and no, it’s not because they sound like sex words. If five minutes ago is what the popular girl says to dump on someone else’s style (and, in fact, that’s just how Hilary Swank’s character uses it in the Buffy movie), then nudiustertian is what the awkward, bookish girl tries to use in a similar circumstance, only to have the popular kids take her book and hit her with it. It comes from the Latin phrase nudius tertius, which in turn is a contraction of nunc dies tertius est — literally, “today is the third day.”

I guess it would be a little on-the-nose to point out that any dictionary that actially bothers to include the word nudiustertian notes it as being obsolete. I’d like to think that it was rendered so five minutes ago by so five minutes ago.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

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