Super Ginormous Language Problems
@Richard Fontana has occasionally accused me linguistic prescriptivism. I don't really apologize for it. Educated people should think about the language they're using and its value and precision.
I am generally delighted with how English evolved in the 19th and 20th centuries. English speakers' willingness to accept loan words and otherwise add vocabulary with deep nuance is likely unmatched by any other language during that period. Notwithstanding the USA's cultural imperialism, I suspect English's easy accommodation of domain-specific languages and descriptive power has been a factor in its popularity.
Classically, Free Software advocates lament English's gaps, such as the ambiguity of the adjective "free". I've never understood a reason, other than prescriptivism, that we've refused to just started using freedom as an adjective, of other such terminology.
I considered in this context two recent (they're probably about a decade old now, but that's short-term in language evolution standards) usage issues that have propagated, yet are useless.
One is the use of "super" as adverb. AFAICT, it's a just a synonym for "very", which I always thought was an almost useless adverb anyway. (i.e, if you find yourself needing an adverb of degree that merely gives you "more" of the adjective of adverb you already used, there's probably a better adjective or adverb you could use.) I suppose "super" was ostensibly supposed to communicate a nuance beyond "very", but I don't think it actually does at this point: I mostly hear speakers using "super" instead of "very". Is there any nuance there at all?
"Ginormous" seems similarly useless. Similarly, ginormous ostensibly should indicate something much larger than gigantic or enormous. However, the word has just decreased the nuance available between the two words and superseded it with a new word that means roughly the same thing as either of the previous ones.
But, based on this portmanteau's popularity, I suppose I should simply be proposing "sofree" as a new adjective to mean "adjective that modifies the noun to indicated that the noun has the quality or permissions associated with software freedom"? If it became popular, wouldn't that be a super gianmorous language coup for software freedom?
Richard Fontana shared this.Show all 6 repliesThe two usages you reference are older than a decade. With a minute or so of searching I found plausible examples of adverbial "super" (I think the same as what you're talking about) from the 1930s and 1940s.
"Ginormous" is certainly more recent, but a quick search found some examples from the late 1980s, and here's evidence of a usage from 1960:
Ginormous is reminiscent of the likely somewhat older "humongous" (a similar portmanteau-ish formation). It was in fairly wide use when I was a child. I gather that proprietary relicensing company MongoDB (fka 10gen) claims that the "Mongo" in "MongoDB" is a shortening of "humongous", apparently in reaction to complaints that "mong(o)" is or was a derogatory term for a person with Down Syndrome (trisomy 21) in some varieties of English.