The sewing of new words into the fabric of everyday speech stretches back to the beginning of time. Some of the most influential existing texts on English vocab in 2016 include plays by Shakespeare. But the likes of Spider-Man and Harry Potter couldn't have the traditionalists taking up the limelight now, could they?
The writers of movies and TV shows ransack their brains and thesauruses to think of the perfect word for a thing. Sometimes the word is such a neat fit for its definition it sticks in the mind of the viewer, leaving the confines of the screen and entering ordinary parlance. Lest we forget to commemorate these brave writers for venturing their words, here is a list of 12 we would (probably) not know had it not been for the wordsmiths' intrepidity.
Where: The Muppets
Definition: Muppet puppet/stupid person in UK slang
Example: "Get your hand out of the toaster, you muppet!"
Rhymes with: Tuffet
Background: The name was born with the creation of Muppets by Jim Henson in 1971. Henson claimed that despite the similarity to "marionette" and "puppet" — 16th century words — he only settled on "muppet" because he liked its sound.
11. 'Hakuna Matata'
Where: The Lion King
Definition: No worries
Example: "Hakuna Matata. It means "no worries."
Rhymes with: Ah spoon a meat-eater
Background: The Swahili phrase only roughly translates as the above. "Hakuna" means "there is not there" while "matata" means "problems." It is commonly used in Zanzibar and Kenya, especially in touristy areas.
Definition: Super ridiculous
Example: "A pigeon speaking is redonkulous!"
Rhymes with: A wonky mouse
Background: "Donk" replaces "dic" in "ridiculous" to make the word itself amplify its meaning. It appeals to those who feel the need to invigorate "ridiculous" with a mid-word bounce.
Where: The Only Way is Essex
Definition: Bedeck a woman's shaved pubic area with crystal ornamentation.
Example: "Amy's vajazzle is so lush, just peeking at it temporarily blinded Bobby."
Rhymes with: Big apple
Background: Though the verb, a portmanteau of "vagina" and "bedazzle," was first introduced by a 2010 book by Jennifer Love Hewitt, TOWIE popularized it through using it in front of its worldwide audience of millions.
Where: Mean Girls
Quote: Regina: "What is 'fetch'?"
Gretchen: "Oh, it's like slang, from... England."
Rhymes with: Retch
Background: Though in the movie, Regina George does her best to quash Gretchen Wiener's attempt to popularize "fetch," its definition on Gretchen's terms is widely known — albeit not used by anyone who is fetch — thanks to the cult status of Mean Girls. It derives from shortening the adjective "fetching," which meant "crafty, scheming" in the 1580s (like the girls) but came to mean "allure, attract, fascinate" around 1880.
Where: The Simpsons
Definition: To taketh away
Kent Brockman: "Yoink?!"
Rhymes with: Boink
Background: The onomatopoeic word was popularized by writer George Meyer's use of it to accompany the snatching of something. Meyer may have copied it from Archie Comics. The earliest Simpsons use was a 1993 episode called "Duffless" when Homer snatches $100 from Marge. It has been used 23 times since. "Yoink" is so popular it has its own Twitter hashtag.
Definition: A small, innocuous bodily lump.
Quote: "I just had me a nubbinectomy." ("The One With Phoebe's Ex-Partner").
Rhymes with: Scrubbin'
Background: Nubbin has roots as far back as the 17th century, when "nub" meant "stunted ear of corn." In Friends, Chandler uses it as a cute nickname for his third nipple.
Where: Star Wars
Definition: Disciple of the Force as a Knight of the Jedi Order. Used in common slang as someone who has unnaturally good skill or access. It has also evolved — just see the five pages of Urban Dictionary entries, like:
A portly 30-something man who, after becoming unemployed, has decided to stay home and work odd part-time jobs from home.
Cockney rhyming slang for 'faeces': Jedi Knight - Shite
Quote: “Hmm! Adventure. Hmmpf! Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things” (Yoda, obvs).
Rhymes with: Dead eye
Background: George Lucas's term was inspired by the Japanese word "Jidaigeki." Jidaigeki refers to a genre of historical dramas set during the samurai Edo period — from which Star Wars took inspiration. The word also acknowledges author Edgar Rice Burrough's fictional series about the planet Mars, called Barsoom, where martian royalty was titled either Jed or Jeddak (prince, king or emperor).
Where: Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
Definition: A robot, especially one with human-like characteristics. Or a person with the emotions of a machine.
Quote: “You know, that little droid is going to cause me a lot of trouble.” (Luke).
Rhymes with: Void
Background: The shortened version of "android" was first coined by sci-fi author Mari Wolf in her 1952 story Robots of the World! Arise! but Lucasfilm popularized it, after it was introduced by special effects artist John Stears. The studio liked it so much they even trademarked it in 1977.
Where: Harry Potter
Definition: Non-magic folk. Commonly used for someone unfamiliar with a particular skill or activity (a possible opposite of "Jedi").
Quote: “Don't let the muggles get you down.” (Prisoner of Azkaban).
Rhymes with: Puddle
Background: J.K. Rowling wanted to call the non-wizards "mug," slang for a gullible or ugly person, but thought to soften it with the end syllable "-gle" to suggest "both foolishness and lovability" according to wikia. The word was used before in unrelated and now outdated definitions — in the 1930s as a marijuana joint as well as slang for hot chocolate.
Definition: An intuition that something is gravely wrong. Used in everyday banter as having a feeling that something is occurring or nearby.
Example: "My spidey-sense is tingling."
Rhymes with: Tidy fence
Background: Peter Parker gets his spidey-sense (a creative combo of "spider" and sense" along with several other arachnid powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. He has the power, which manifests with a tingling at the base of his skull, from his creation in The Amazing Spider-Man #1 in the '60s. The sense enables Spider-Man to see when blinded, detect radio frequencies and discern danger.
Where: Lord of the Rings franchise
Definition: A small, legendary humanoid creature with furry feet. Now used as slang for a short, hairy, irritating person, though its popularity has spawned many definitions. Examples from its six Urban Dictionary pages are:
Verb: to bring futile and destructive industrial action at the last minute.
The creature that is created when a hobo and a rabbit reproduce.
Example: "He's such a grisly, annoying hobbit."
Rhymes with: Poppet
Background: Though made famous by J.R.R. Tolkien's use in his 1930s novels, "hobbit" was also mentioned in a 1584 list of hundreds of types of sprite. There's no evidence Tolkien saw this list, however, and he was an enthusiastic language-creator. It probably derives from Middle English "hobbe," an obsolete term for fairies or a countryman.
The use of verbal treats like these is so appealing because it retains a cheeky pop reference to the movie. When you call your tufty buddy Steve a "smelly hobbit," not only are you doling out an admirable insult, you're connecting with stinky Stevey over your knowledge of the Lord of the Rings. When you're hungry and your nose twitches at the rich scent of McDonald's floating on the breeze, wittily mentioning your "electric spidey-sense" also nods to a knowledge of one of Marvel's finest. Next time you watch a movie, try using one of the new words afterwards.